New town council member elected
After Marlinton town council member Natasha McMann recently stepped down from her position to further her education, remaining Marlinton town council members and its selection committee nominated six individuals for the open spot in this week's regular monthly meeting.
Robbie Sharp, Sam Felton, Don Morrison, B.J. Gudmundsson, Chris Weber and Sue Helton were all nominated by the selection committee, consisting of Jim Smith, Caroline Burns and Helton.
After an initial vote the list was narrowed down to two candidates, Felton and Helton. After a second vote, Helton was elected and sworn in as the town's newest council member.
Helton, of Marlinton, works as administrative assistant to the Pocahontas County Commission and said she has been living here her entire life. Helton said she served on the council back in the 1980s and she's excited to be back. She said she doesn't have any specific projects or ideas to bring to the council just yet.
“I'm just trying to get focused on what my responsibilities are at this point,” said Helton.
With the formalities out of the way, the council looked at the on-going Courtney Avenue controversy.
In September 2011, Circuit Judge Joseph Pomponio ruled that Courtney Avenue belongs to Lakeview Estates resident Dr. John Mallow, Jr. The town of Marlinton 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.
“Mr. Mallow submitted a proposal to the town on Courtney Avenue about three weeks ago,” said Marlinton mayor Joe Smith. “I, in turn, gave everybody a copy and asked them to review and see if they had anything they didn't like or wanted to change. There were a few things, which have been turned over to Mr. [Steve] Hunter, to work out with Mr. Mallow and his attorney.”
“We'll discuss those basically with John [Mallow] here,” said Hunter. “He and I, I think, can talk through it and hopefully work out the differences.”
After some discussion, council members were able to reach a compromise with Mallow.
“Sounds to me like we got an agreement,” remarked Hunter.
Mallow said he wanted a quick conclusion to the situation.
“It'll be a year here in October since there was an order, when we had that judge's decision,” Mallow said. “I'd like to have this agreement signed right away. I'd like to have this taken care of. I don't want this to drag like it has the past year.”
Afterwards, Mallow expressed his displeasure to council members about the way the situation developed.
“I'd like to say one thing. It would have been nice if the council would have come to me before they sued. Nobody said a word to me. They blind-sided me. They didn't say 'we got a problem, can we work this out?' A lawsuit was just dropped on me, I didn't know it was coming and I think the town can save themselves a lot of money. The next time they get ready to sue somebody, try to work it out instead of dropping a suit on them.”
In the mayor's report, Smith said repair work had been completed recently on one of the town's water tanks.
“The leak at the cemetery water tank was repaired by the tank company at no cost to the town because it has a lifetime warranty due to the type of leak it was. It was in the seam of the tank. The only other thing I have to report is that I have requested two quotes on the paving of Eighth Street at Jenny Split. I have not received them back yet. We're faced with either getting it paved or closing it.”
Town recorder Robin Mutscheller asked Smith for an update on recent fire hydrant testing conducted by the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department.
“In the process of putting a water tap in for the new wellness center, we determined that the tests the fire department did were not inaccurate. When our engineer from Potesta was here last week, we looked at the pipe,” said Smith.
Smith said the testing revealed corrosion in some of the metal pipes in the town water system and they required attention.
“There's two things we can do,” explained Smith. “The first thing that we're gonna try, upon recommendation by the gentleman from Potesta, is isolate a section of the town, a block, and cut the main line off with the valve. Hook a fire truck to this end, and put pressure on it and push it out. It won't clean itself by natural flow. Then, another option, which is very expensive, is there's a company out here that would come out here and do the same thing we do with our sewer lines, and just snake 'em out.”
“With the flushing, the households off of that line will have to be down for a day,” added council member Norris Long.
“The first area we're gonna do is over around the elementary school because that's where we really had the loss of water,” said Smith. “We have to get a feasible time that the nursing home can be without water for maybe three or four hours. We're working on that. Herb [Barlow] and the fire department have agreed to do it, at the time that we have [available] to do it. If it's at ten o' clock at night, then that's when we'll do it.”
During the public input portion of the meeting, Marcia Tester said she wanted to thank council members for their support with the Veteran's Tree project. Tester said instead of using ribbons on the tree, organizers were now looking at using dog tags to hang on the tree.
Mutscheller told Weber she might be able to help with the new idea.
Marlinton resident Chris Weber asked council members if they'd had an opportunity to visit the animal shelter.
“Robin [Robertson] and the staff from the sheriff's department are doing a very good job. They are getting animals out on rescues and they're working very hard,” said Weber. “If you haven't had a chance to get down and look, give her a pat on the back — she deserves it. They're doing a wonderful job, her and Josh [Vaughan].”
Gudmundsson agreed. She said she went to visit the shelter during Pioneer Days.
“It was fabulous up there. I went and found the sheriff and complimented him for the work that they're doing,” said Gudmundsson.
Gudmundsson said she was concerned about vehicles speeding in town.
“There has become quite a problem with speeding traffic down on the lower end of Second Avenue. We're talking like 40 or 50 miles an hour, 24 hours a day, no mufflers, nothing,” said Gudmundsson. “There's been lots of new families to move in on Second Avenue with young children that are out playing.”
“I think we need to draw that to the attention of the sheriff's department,” said Long.
Smith said he meets with the sheriff's department every Monday or Tuesday and he would bring it to their attention.
Council members voted on engaging a new accountant for a town combined sewer overflow [CSO] project.
“Rule 42 is a financial report of some type that we have to do in order to qualify for funding for the continuation of the CSO water overflow project. Through Region IV, the town advertised, and we only got one reply. That was from Griffith and Associates. I can't tell you anything about 'em other than W.D. Smith says they're a respectable firm,” said Smith.
Smith explained the project's focus.
“Separating sanitation sewage from surface water drainage,” said Smith. “We did a little bit up there around the courthouse two years ago, we did Third Avenue two years ago, we did a little bit out here. We have a continuation of that and it looks real promising we'll get the funding. This particular report is required before we can get the funding.”
Council members voted unanimously to approve Griffith and Associates as the accountant for the Rule 42.
Smith said because of the recent changes with council members, he wanted to dismiss and then re-appoint new committee members. The mayor sits on all the committees along with the committee members. Smith said he thought they would gain more insight if they worked on different committees during their four year term as council members.
Smith appointed Norris Long, as chairman to the personnel committee with Sue Helton. Dave Zorn was appointed chairman of the wage committee with Louise Barnisky. Robin Mutscheller was appointed as chair of the safety committee along with Barnisky; and Loretta Malcomb as chair of the finance committee with Star Barlow.
“The flood control coordinator will remain the same, with Robin,” said Smith. “Parliamentarian, Robin being the recorder, I think that's a position you need to have. Liaisons — maintenance is Norris Long, garbage is Sue, cemetery is Dave Zorn, water plant is Robin, streets and sidewalks is Loretta, and the office and the building is Louise.”
Council members went into recess from the regular meeting, as a formality, to open a public hearing on the recent garbage rate increase. After no public comment, the public hearing ended and the regular meeting resumed session so the health and sanitation ordinance could be read and voted on.
After a unanimous vote, the ordinance was approved. The rate increase will go into effect November 1, the next billing cycle, and Marlinton residents will pay $31.50 every two months, rather than $25.
“It was something we didn't take lightly. We looked at it, we looked at other ways of cuttin' costs, and we had no option,” said Smith.