Marlinton Town council votes against gas drilling resolution
Marlinton Town Council met last week at the Marlinton Municipal Building and addressed the topic of Marcellus shale gas drilling early in the meeting.
Beth Little, secretary/treasurer of the Eight Rivers Council, updated council members on recent press regarding gas drilling elsewhere in the United States. The two articles she presented talked about existing drilling operations and the negative impact the drilling has had on surrounding communities.
"There's information coming out all the time because it's quite a boom," said Little.
Fred Burns, of Marlinton, voiced his concerns of government involvement and overstepping their bounds.
"All these things we hear are rumors," said Burns. "I don't know which side I'm on, for or against, but I think you're underestimating the people of Pocahontas County. We don't want government agencies telling us what we do with our land, what we do with our lives. We're fed up with the government telling us what we can eat, what we can drive, what kind of lightbulbs we can use in our homes, what type of healthcare we can have. The government is running our lives, and I don't think you need to get involved with this issue as a town government. You're gonna tear this county apart, and I think you should table the issue."
Board members heard recommendations from the previously appointed Marcellus Shale Resolution committee.
1.Clean and potable ground water reserves from wells, springs, lakes, streams and rivers are essential to the continued existence of Pocahontas County and the Town of Marlinton. The municipal water supplied by the Town of Marlinton must originate from pure water sources and reserves.
2.The Town of Marlinton believes that the general quality of ground and spring water as well as reserves in steams, lakes and rivers in Pocahontas County represent to us an economic resource for the indefinite future as well as a sustaining and absolutely essential life commodity.
According to committee member Natasha McMann, the committee revised a resolution sent to council members from county commissioner Martin Saffer, who is also the town's attorneys.
"We worded it and revised it to reflect more, what the town of Marlinton, our concerns were. We tried to word it so that it reflected how our water supply could be affected if this takes place in the county," said McMann.
Mayor Joe Smith and council members discussed the proposed resolution after it was read.
"I have a problem with this resolution," said Smith. "The last paragraph I'd like to see changed to say, the undersigned individual members of the Marlinton town council do hereby resolve that they are opposed to hydrofracking and drilling operations in areas which may result in an adverse effect to the water supply. Personally, I'm not sure that we need to adopt a resolution, anyone that wants to sign it could sign and the ones that didn't want to would not have to sign it."
Councilmember Norris Long said he was also opposed to the resolution.
"I, too, am against this resolution. I believe the way this resolution has been presented, the town of Marlinton is trying to impose zoning on our county," said councilmember Norris Long.
Town council recorder Robin Mutscheller said she stands against the resolution as well.
"I'm as concerned as anybody of the potential impacts of anything negative that would affect our water, she said, "But I think we have something that is far worse affecting every aspect of our lives. That's unemployment and lack of opportunities for people in the county. I'm opposed to this resolution.
Council member Louise Barnisky agreed with Mutscheller.
"We're just such a poor county. We need to get busy and do something that will affect the county and help get the county to grow," said Barnisky.
Council members voted against the resolution, 4-2. Council member David Zorn was not present at the meeting.
Zach Chittum, new owner of the McKay Building on 8th Street in Marlinton, addressed the board with concerns about utility service rates.
"I'm new to this town and new to this area, but not new to West Virginia. I actually have some connections in this town that go way back," said Chittum. "After talking to some local business people I know that I'm not the only to complain about the cost of the water, sewer and trash in this town."
Smith told Chittum that the water and sewage rates are set by the public service commission.
"We're proud of you buying that building, it was a one metered building. If you put individual meters in the building you'd be assessed accordingly but there's only one meter so you're the sole person responsible," said Smith. "If you want us to collect from your tenants you have to individually meter your building."
"I get sticker shock when I get the bill, it's a lot of money," said Chittum. "What are you guys trying to do to curb [the cost]? You want to attract people like me to invest in this community but are you guys doing anything to soften the blow to make it more attractive to citizens to relocate here?"
"We're constantly on the look out for major leaks. In the last year we've located close to a million and half gallons a month leakage in the system, which is being corrected," said Smith.
Chittum talked to council members about the general appearance of businesses on Main Street and asked council members if funding was available to alleviate the cost of renovations.
"As a community we apply for grants when they're available, beautification projects, street lamps, entrance signs, what we can. But there aren't many resources available. We're always looking for volunteers, if you're interested in volunteering your time," said Mutscheller.
"Yeah definitely, I would be. I appreciate your time. My main concern was the overall condition of Main Street. I'm going to do my part with my building," said Chittum.
"I've been trying to get in touch with the owner of French's Diner, but no one wants to claim ownership to it," said Smith. "I mean nobody. Absolutely nobody. The government says they don't own it, the people that had a business there say they don't own it. The people that own the land say they don't own the building. If nothing else, that building is going to come out of there one way or another this summer. I see improvements on Main Street."
Councilmembers voted to renew the State Police contract for an additional six months.
Councilmembers talked about the upcoming spring clean-up project set for April. In the first two weeks of April, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Make it Shine program will provide clean-up materials, waste hauling and even defray landfill fees.