Legal battle over Courtney Avenue continues
Marlinton town council is satisfied with recent improvements to Courtney Avenue, but an adjoining landowner is not. Mayor Joe Smith updated town council on the situation at the regular meeting on September 6.
Dr. John Mallow initiated a successful legal action to force the town to open the dead-end avenue, but isn't satisfied with the 12-foot gravel roadway that town crews installed. Mallow wants the town to widen the roadway to at least 16 feet, but council thinks the 12-foot alleyway is adequate.
The mayor said he was happy with the recent work.
"Courtney Avenue, as far as I'm concerned, is completed, except a little bit of minor things like signage and some mulching and seeding," he said.
Smith distributed photographs of the avenue to councilmembers, who unanimously expressed their satisfaction with the work.
"It looks very nice," said councilmember Natasha McMann. "I went up there last week."
The mayor said he had spoken with homeowners along Courtney Avenue and received no complaints, except for Mallow's.
"I talked to some of the homeowners up there, since we've been done," he said. "All but one I talked to was happy."
Circuit Court Judge Joseph Pomponio will inspect the avenue on September 21 at 9 a.m. and hear testimony at 10:30 a.m. to determine if the town is meeting its responsibilities. Smith said the town planned to bring in an expert witness from the Division of Highways.
During the mayor's report, Smith informed council that he had enrolled town employee Kevin Malcomb in a backflow valve testing course in Ripley, at a cost of $340.
State law requires that backflow prevention valves be installed on the water supply lines of certain businesses, including auto garages, restaurants, beauty shops and funeral parlors. The devices prevent hazardous substances from back-flowing into the public water supply.
Smith said having a certified employee would save the town money over hiring a contractor to do the testing, which costs $20 per device. The mayor said the valves must be inspected annually.
The mayor thanked Pocahontas Memorial Hospital employees Richard Smith and David Lane and manager Reba Arbogast for their help with preparing the auditorium floors in the municipal building for the Smithsonian Institute historical exhibit. Smith said the beautiful floors greatly enhanced the exhibit
Cara Rose, director of the county Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), updated council on next summer's West Virginia Harley Owners Group (HOG) rally, to be held in Pocahontas County.
The director said the last HOG rally in Pocahontas County was in 2007.
"I would assume everybody remembers that," she said. "It was really a big event for Marlinton and for Pocahontas County. So, we're really glad to get this particular conference back because it could mean about 1,500 to maybe 2,000 people to the county."
Rose said the motorcycle rally would be at Snowshoe on July 11-14. The director said the Pioneer Days committee had agreed to move Pioneers Days to July 4-8 to accommodate the event. A cycle parade from Snowshoe into Marlinton is planned for July 12 and the CVB will host a pig roast in town for the bikers.
Rose said the group remembered Marlinton's hospitality during previous rallies, which was a major factor in their decision to come back.
"The folks that came with the HOG remembered how warm and inviting, and the hospitality that Marlinton extended to them," she said.
Parks and Recreation (P&R) director Lauren Bennett informed council that the P&R board is planning construction of a skateboard park at Marlinton Municipal Park at Stillwell. The facility will be located on land that P&R leases from the town.
Bennett said the idea has strong support in the community.
"Right now, I think there's a lot of support and there's a lot of parents behind the students who are wanting to skateboard," she said.
The director said the first phase would include a 60-foot by 100-foot concrete pad in the area between the park's large pavilion and the Greenbrier River Trail. Skateboard ramps will be built on the pad when funds become available.
Bennett asked council for a donation and suggested the use of leftover funds from the purchase of a downtown property. Council determined that the money is controlled by the Marlinton building commission, which currently has just one member - Ernie Shaw.
Smith said he had discussed the issue with Shaw, who favored a $2,000 donation for the skate park. The mayor said council had some legal technicalities to work out with the building commission before the donation could be made.
"I think you're going to get the financial support you need," he said. "It's just, we're going to have to clear up a couple legal loopholes."
P&R will conduct a skateboarding event at Stillwell Park on September 18, 6 p.m. to raise funds for the facility.
Smith announced the confirmation of Herb Barlow as the new chief of Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department. Barlow replaces Dave Peacock, who recently resigned from the position.
Barlow told council he wanted to make the VFD the center of the community.
"Sterling Lewis, a personal friend of mine with the State Fire Marshal's Office, made a comment on Metronews, about two months ago, saying the volunteer fire departments need to be the center of the community," he said. "That's what we want."
The new chief said an immediate goal was to improve the department's river rescue capability.
"One of the things I know we need, right off the bat, is a swift water rescue team," he said. "I'm working with the county guys, with the county search and rescue group, to possibly have the swift water team come out of that group, but we need a swift water boat in this county."
Council considered setting fees for town work on private property.
Smith proposed a standard charge of $10 per hour per town employee and $50 per hour for equipment; and a reduced rate for special event sponsors: $8 per hour for workers and $40 per hour for equipment.
Councilmember Norris Long expressed concerned that town residents would hire the town instead of a private business.
"Having read the resolution, I've only got one question or concern, in that I don't want to be in competition with private business, whereby landowners hire us at the cheaper rate." he said.
The mayor said the town would not be on call to perform work and would not compete with private businesses.
"We're not in the business to work on private property, but every once in awhile, it happens and we need to be reimbursed for it," he said.
Council voted 6-0 to approve the fees.
During a public comment period, Jim Burks expressed displeasure with comments made by the mayor and councilmembers during last month's meeting.
During the September council meeting, Jacob Meck, the owner of Allegheny Disposal, requested compensation from the town for lost garbage collection accounts. During that discussion, the mayor and councilmembers speculated about the business dealings of Burks and Dr. John Sharp, the previous owners of the disposal company.
Burks said he was offended by comments reported in The Pocahontas Times and stated: he and Dr. Sharp never had a verbal agreement with a previous town administration; all parties in the sale and purchase of his garbage collection business had been advised by attorneys; and that he and Dr. Sharp had not ignored town ordinances.
In other business, Marlinton council:
- voted 6-0 to approve a $400 annual underwriting contribution to WVMR.
- voted 6-0 to approve a variance for the Artisan's Co-op to place a sign on their building on Fourth Avenue.
- voted 6-0 to approve applying for a grant to improve sidewalks and parking areas and install a bike rack at the wellness center to be constructed on Ninth Street.
- approved recorder Robin Mutscheller to work with the Farmer's Market committee to improve facilities for the weekly market.
- voted 6-0 to approve a time extension for the recently completed wastewater /stormwater project to obtain state funding.
- approved changing Sammy Madison's employment status from part-time to full-time.
- took no action on a request for assistance with plumbing bills.
The next regular Marlinton council meeting is scheduled for October 3, 7 p.m. at the municipal building.