Council addresses packed agenda
Marlinton's Monday night town council meeting was well attended by town residents and business owners, as town council members attacked a packed agenda.
Mayor Joe Smith said in his Mayor's Report that a standard operating procedure has been established in the event of a contamination in Knapps Creek.
"I met with Shawn Dunbrack, the 911 director, and Melvin Martin, the EMS director, and talked with the fire department. We did not have, and we have to have, a policy in place in case there were contamination of our water source."
The purpose of the policy is to protect the town water supply in the event of a commercial vehicle accident in or near Knapps Creek.
The entire policy is available for viewing at the Marlinton Municipal Building, but an excerpt from the plan states that "the initial responding Fire/EMS unit is to immediately notify Pocahontas County 911 dispatch to have the Marlinton Water Plant shut down their intake of water from Knapps Creek. If the commodity/chemical can be identified and it is safe for basic trained responders to approach the incident, a team should place booms across the stream at the accident site to prevent further flow into the watershed. A two-tiered level of haz-mat booms should be established as close as possible to the town of Marlinton water intake on Knapps Creek to prevent any contamination of the system."
Smith said contractors started work this week on both the new Marlinton Wellness Center, as well as the Depot reconstruction. He said he met with Senator Manchin's office in May regarding the Flood Protection project. Smith attended a Memorial Day Service and thanked the honor corps for their services. Smith said he also attended the Greenbrier River Trail Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.
Council member Louise Barnisky asked Smith for an update on the Courtney Avenue debate because a neighbor had approached her about the high grass there.
In 2011, Circuit Judge Joseph Pomponio ruled that Courtney Avenue belonged to Lakeview Estates resident Dr. John Mallow, Jr. The town sued Mallow over the 40' x 100' strip of property after he quit claimed it and demanded the town improve the land as a throughway. The town spent $7,000 to gravel the road, which sits atop water and sewage lines.
Smith said the Courtney Avenue issue is in limbo, pending Mallow getting an easement from the Wade family.
"I talked to Johnny probably a month or five weeks ago," said Smith. "There's been no action taken since then as far as the town goes. If he can get the easement he needs then he will relinquish all claims to Courtney Avenue."
"Currently, it is open for use," added council member Norris Long.
Smith said that on a Saturday, on his own time, he tried to mow the area at Courtney Avenue, "but it was too thick and heavy," he said.
Smith said the town is brush hogging areas in town right now, and once the area around Courtney Avenue has been cleared, the town can maintain it, but the owners will be billed.
Board members discussed a $2,000 request for a donation to purchase a new scoreboard at the little league field at Stillwell Park. Matt McPeak made the request on behalf of the little league last month, but because the item was not on last month's agenda, it was tabled until Monday night's meeting. The scoreboard would enable the little league to hold tournaments in town, and there is no existing scoreboard currently, stats are kept by hand.
"A tournament could have a decent impact on the community because those little league tournaments, you have several teams participating in them, which means several parents and other people that come to them," said Smith. "They might go to the Dairy Queen, they might go to the Snak Shak, but they're gonna eat someplace, and maybe buy some gas or who knows."
Long questioned whether or not the scoreboard would be in place this season. Long said that Parks and Recreation had given the little league an annual allocation for this fiscal year, but the little league has already spent it. Long said that if the scoreboard won't be going up this season, and there would be no tournaments at Stillwell this year, council members should wait to see if little league organizers could pay for the sign out of their annual operating allotment next season.
Board members agreed to table the issue until the mayor had an opportunity to talk with McPeak.
The Marlinton Garbage and Sanitation Committee met late last month to discuss possibly increasing the town garbage fee. The committee decided not to make a recommendation to council members, but instead to have an open discussion. Council and committee member Natasha McMann and committee member Long provided council members with their positions.
"The overriding consideration, and the determining consideration, for any changes, revolves directly around the potential tipping increases to the Pocahontas County landfill," Long explained.
In 2011, the Pocahontas County Solid Waste Authority applied for a tipping fee increase from the West Virginia Public Service Commission. Council members agreed to wait and see what the PSC's ruling will be.
Council member David Zorn asked the council whether any fine-tuning could be done on the current garbage program. Smith said that he'd already had discussions with Long about doing just that.
"Currently we go to the dump every day. There's certain times of the year they go twice a day. Our garbage truck, from my understanding, when it's filled to capacity, will hold nine tons. We're making trips to the landfill with like, two or three tons."
Smith suggested making fewer trips, and only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, rather than every day, to save fuel and reduce wear and tear on the town's truck.
"It's not gonna save on your tonnage, because you're gonna have the same amount of tonnage, but we'll take it three days a week versus five days a week," Smith said. "We are looking at a town recycling program that could save us on tonnage. "
Smith explained how a reduction in tonnage could end up costing the town more in the end.
"If we reduce our tonnage, they [the SWA] could come back a year from now and say 'we're gonna have to raise our tipping fees again because we've lost tonnage,'" he said. "If it gets to the point that it's immaterial, maybe we should get out of the garbage business."
Sanitation committee members addressed an earlier question from Barnisky regarding illegal dumping.
"There were justifiable complaints about non-customers placing their refuse in the business dumpsters," said Long. "Short of having those individuals be on the look out and turn in license [plate] numbers, I don't know of any way we can take care of that situation. We did discuss locking, having the type of lid you could lock up that would only be accessible by a universal key."
Smith asked some of the business owners in attendance for input.
River Pub owner Todd Kahler said he already plans on getting rid of his dumpster because his business doesn't generate enough trash to warrant one - and because of the illegal dumping.
"I'm not watching my dumpster all the time, I don't think I'm going to "catch" anyone, but sometimes I go in there and I'm like, 'what's a car motor doing in there?" joked Kahler. "We've been talking about it, and we're probably gonna get rid of the dumpster because we can get by on a can."
Resident Mark Strauss asked board members about construction debris being dumped illegally in town dumpsters.
Smith said he has already spoken with the individuals responsible. Smith received a complaint, went to check on the situation, and caught someone in the act.
"I nailed the employee, and the owner just happened to pull in at the time," Smith said. "I informed him that his garbage will not be picked up anymore if it had that type of debris in it. It's hard on our truck. It's a compactor and it runs off hydraulics. You take lumber and drywall and what not, it's heavy and it just doesn't compact good."
Zorn talked about the recent sign controversy in town. Small signs indicating dining and lodging were hung by GoMarlinton without permission from the town. Zorn and Smith met with outdoor advertising inspectors from the Department of Highway, who settled the issue.
"Basically what it boils down to, the signs are illegal," said Zorn. "If we don't take 'em down, individual owners don't take 'em down, or whoever puts 'em up, they'll call the county to take them down for us, and the town will be billed. So it's up to the town to make sure the owners take them down."
"The signs are illegal for several reasons," agreed Smith. "One is, signs are not allowed on utility poles, point blank. Those are classified as utility poles."
Smith also said the signs do not meet the DOT's regulations as to size and lettering. He said the lettering regulation is based on the speed that the vehicle is traveling.
"In an 75 mile an hour zone on the interstate, the lettering has to be like, 12 inches tall," Smith explained. "This is a 25 mile an hour zone but they're still too small."
Smith said there were some alternatives discussed, one of them in particular is, in his opinion, not feasible.
"The town could ask the Appalachian Byways organization for a segmentation permit which would eliminate Marlinton out of the Appalachian Byways. The downfall of that is, they started construction today on the depot, some of the funding to redo the depot involved an interpretive center that would be located in the depot when it's completed. That funding was secured through the byways organization. We could lose that funding if the Byways are not recognized in Marlinton."
Smith appointed a committee to further investigate the signage issue.
"We got to take care of Marlinton. The signs are good for Marlinton, they could help, they can't hurt. We oughta figure out a way to help these people," said Marlinton resident Joel Srodes.