Marlinton renews State Police contract
Despite an offer from the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department to provide expanded police coverage at the same cost, Marlinton council voted to renew its law enforcement contract with the West Virginia State Police.
The town's police committee met with county prosecutor Donna Meadows-Price. During the June 8 council meeting, committee chairman Joe Smith updated council with new information obtained during the meeting.
According to Smith, Meadows-Price told the committee that the Sheriff's Department does not have the authority to contract with the town or enforce town ordinances. The prosecutor told the committee that the county commission could contract with the town, but not the Sheriff's Department.
"As far as it stands now, our report is that we will continue with the State Police," Smith said.
After Smith gave the committee recommendation, council voted 6-0 to renew the State Police contract for six months.
Council considered approval of a new animal ordinance, after a second reading. During its May meeting, council approved the ordinance, 6-0. If approved after a second reading, the ordinance would become law.
The animal ordinance committee includes chairman Smith, Zorn and PC-SPCA shelter manager Cris Weber. Nelson Hernandez, proprietor of The Old Clark Inn, has been a regular participant in committee meetings.
Recorder Robin Mutscheller read the ordinance by title only. Smith moved that the ordinance be approved and councilmember David Zorn seconded.
Councilmember Norris Long read a prepared statement to voice his opposition.
"I have great concerns with portions of the ordinance," he said. "My largest concern deals with section 3-105, the tethering of animals. I believe most of the citizen complaints, dealing with dogs, has been directed specifically to dogs running at large and nuisance noise from barking dogs. These items are specifically covered in the proposed ordinance. The Town of Marlinton is not in business as an animal welfare organization."
Long said the tethering portion of the ordinance was too broad.
"There are approximately two-and-one-quarter pages dedicated to the tethering of animals, which goes too far from the original objectives of the ordinance," he said.
Mutscheller said she liked parts of the ordinance, but that it needed more work.
"There are things in the ordinance that I like and there are things in the ordinance I have concerns with," she said. "I would like to see more time spent on the ordinance, making sure that it's right for Marlinton, before we proceed with adoption."
Councilmember Loretta Malcomb questioned how the ordinance would be enforced.
"I had questions about enforcement, as well as the tethering," she said. "I thought it was a little strict."
Councilmember David Zorn said he was in favor of passing the ordinance, as written.
"What it does, it puts something in effect," he said. "I had three calls myself one day about some people who had a Boxer, next to The Pub. That dog was on a chain [two feet long] and it was hot with no water in the sun. There was nothing I could legally do about it because there's nothing in the law that says I can do anything. They can just leave that dog there to suffer."
Hernandez expressed frustration that few community members had participated in committee meetings during the last several months.
"The animal control issue is probably one of the biggest quality of life issues that the residents of Marlinton have dealt with for years," he said. "Obviously, there's some strong opinions here about this ordinance and a lot of people who need something done. I would suggest that those people who have very strong feelings, join that committee and help write the ordinance."
Council decided to reconvene the committee to receive more public input and tabled the item for action at a later date.
Smith said he would call at least two public meetings to discuss the ordinance. The chairman said committee meetings will be public and advertised in the newspaper and on the radio.
During the mayor's report, Mayor Dennis Driscoll reported that upgrades to the sewage treatment plant were nearly complete. The mayor said the only remaining task is for the power company to switch the electrical system from 100-amp to 200-amp service.
Driscoll reported that Potesta and Associates, Inc. engineer David Sharp will present a proposal for work to the town's sewage and stormwater systems at the July meeting. The mayor said Sharp met with officials from the Department of Environmental Protection, who told him that the project must remove stormwater from the sanitary sewers in order to qualify for funding, according to the mayor.
Smith, chairman of the Fourth of July committee, announced that the town would hold a July 4 celebration with fireworks this year. The town is working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to plan the event, which will include a fireworks show at dark; free ice cream from GoMarlinton; entertainment at the gazebo and food vendors.
In other business, Marlinton council:
- took no action on hiring a part-time employee. Mutscheller said the personnel committee had interviewed candidates but was not prepared to make a recommendation.
The next regular Marlinton council meeting is scheduled for July 13, 7 p.m. at the municipal building.