Mayor promises quick action on nuisance property
During his successful campaign, Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith said that clean up of nuisance properties would be one of his top priorities. During his first council meeting as mayor on July 11, Smith heard a complaint about an alleged nuisance property in the Riverside neighborhood.
Riverside resident Larry Talkington told council his neighbor's property was "full of junk."
"There used to be a right-of-way there," he said. "It's full of nothing but junk vehicles. You've got motors setting out in that roadway. There's probably 500 tires. He has a camper that's full of junk and has another mobile home that's full of junk. All of it just setting there."
Talkington said he had seen rats and open containers of antifreeze on his neighbor's property.
"I have seen a few rats over there - thank God I haven't seen any snakes yet - crawling out from underneath his house," he said.
Smith said both Talkington and the proprietors of Kimble Funeral Home had filed written complaints with the town. The mayor said letters had been sent to the property owner to no avail.
"There's been no success because of a lack of follow-up," he said.
Councilmember David Zorn told the mayor he was working with town office manager Star Barlow and town judge Dick Groseclose to streamline the complaint procedure.
"It's in its final form for a meeting with Star this weekend," he said. "We'll have to meet with you and Mr. Groseclose to see who administers litigation, tickets, et cetera, and how we communicate with the State Police."
Zorn said it was illegal to have more than two unlicensed vehicles on a lot without a junkyard license.
Smith said more needed to be done.
"Somehow, we need to get his attention and say, 'listen - you're going to clean this up or there's going to be some severe penalties,'" he said.
The mayor said he had discussed the issue with State Police Lieutenant David Malcomb, who told him officers would be dispatched to investigate problem properties.
"They're going to bring in a policeman early in the day, like 2 o'clock or something, and check in with the town," Smith said. "They will begin issuing citations through our correspondence. In other words, if we give them a list, they will go and be sure it is a citation-able problem."
Smith told Talkington the town would act quickly.
"We guarantee you that there will be something done in a short period of time - I promise you," he said.
Council heard an update from Potesta and Associates, Inc. engineer David Sharp, who is working on the second phase of upgrades to the town's stormwater and sewage drainage systems.
The town recently completed the first phase of a project to remove stormwater from the sewage drainage system and upgrade the town's sewage treatment plant. Economic stimulus grants paid $1.4 million of the $1.7 million first phase.
After hiring Potesta, council directed Sharp to find funding for a second phase of repairs.
Sharp reported there is still limited grant money available for remediating combined stormwater overflow (CSO), where stormwater flows into the town's sewage treatment system, but low-interest loans would be needed for strictly stormwater drainage repairs.
In order to determine the extent of CSO remediation necessary, Sharp recommended smoke testing of the town's drainage lines that were not repaired in the first phase. The engineer said he would use the smoke testing results to determine how much grant money the town is eligible to receive.
Sharp said smoke testing would cost about $2,500, in addition to the firm's charge for analysis.
Council voted 6-0 to authorize an expenditure up to $8,000 to complete the smoke testing and Potesta's cost analysis.
Smith proposed changing the regular meeting date to earlier in the month to allow council to review bills before payment. By the current meeting date, on the second Wednesday of each month, most bills already have been paid, according to the mayor.
Council went along with Smith's suggestion and voted 6-0 to change the regular meeting date to the first Monday of each month, beginning on August 1.
The mayor reported that the circuit court ordered the town to open Courtney Avenue to traffic within 60 days or risk losing ownership of part of the right-of-way. Council previously authorized the purchase of gravel for the street and Smith said he would direct town crews to spread the gravel and open the avenue before the deadline.
During the mayor's report, Smith said he had discussed repair of potholes in town with the Department of Highways (DOH). The DOH told the mayor that it had sufficient cold patch for repair of all potholes in town and that work was proceeding.
The mayor informed council that the town auditorium would be in use between September 10 and October 22 for the Smithsonian Institution exhibit, "The Way We Worked."
Smith announced committee appointments for the current term.
The Marlinton Housing Authority members are: Fred Burns, Jr., Tom Dunbrack, Jim Smith, Roger Trusler and John Snyder.
Council committees are organized as follows: animal control: Zorn, Cris Weber, Natasha McMann; safety: Robin Mutscheller; personnel: Mutscheller, Barnisky; wage: Zorn, Barnisky; finance: Mutscheller, Star Barlow, Malcomb; flood control coordinator: Mutscheller; parliamentarian: McMann; website: Mutscheller, Zorn, Malcomb, McMann; maintenance: Zorn; garbage: Barnisky; office and building: Malcomb; cemetery: McMann; streets and sidewalks: Long; water plant: Mutscheller.
In other business, council:
- voted 6-0 to advertise to hire a water plant trainee/operator.
- voted 6-0 to direct the town attorney to resolve a property issue on First Avenue.
- voted 6-0 to hire Sammy Madison as a part-time/seasonal employee.
- voted 6-0 to change over banking documents to reflect the new mayor and council.
- tabled action on an animal control ordinance.
- tabled action on payment for a stormwater/sewage drainage project change order.
The next regular Marlinton council meeting is scheduled for August 1, 7 p.m. in the municipal building.