By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A recent essay contest entitled “If I were Mayor, I would…” took place throughout the local schools. Olivia Triplett, daughter of Steven Triplett and Brandy Garrett and seventh grader at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, was one of many considered in the essay contest, though Triplett came out to be the winner. Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy invited Triplett, along with her family to the February 4 City Council Meeting, to be recognized on her recent accomplishment and present her with a plaque.
As the meeting got down to business, the minutes from the January 21 meeting were approved prior to presentation of invoices, financial reports, and budget revisions from Financial Administrator Danielle Sponaugle. The invoice amount was for $37,937.61 which Councilman Tim Auvil moved to pay with a second by Councilwoman Melissa Jones. A Revenue Control Report for both the general fund and coal severance fund were also presented and acknowledged by the council.
Quotes followed with a proposal from The Rodeheaver Group P.C. This group is being hired to analyze water and sewage rates and the need for an upcoming rate increase, the last being in 2012. “Bottom line is, we have to be at 1.5% on our MHI, which is median household income rate. If we’re not at 1.5%, any grants we would be able to apply for with water and sewer, a lot of times they kick them out because they won’t approve a grant unless our rates are in line,” explained Auvil. “We’re tapping into our savings right now just to pay payroll,” he added. All council was in favor of utilizing this service.
The last quote presented was from Energy Fence Company to install a railing along the steps extending from Tucker Manor down towards Second Street, approximately 168 feet. The money would be withdrawn from the sidewalks line item from the Harman Fund. “This is a much needed thing safety wise,” assured Judy.
Employee reports followed with Sponaugle filling in for City Administrator Jason Myers, who was out of town as acting Vice President for the Rural Water Delegation. She informed the demolition work is complete at the Community Center and work is underway for construction of the new walls and ADA compliant bathrooms. Myers has also spoken to Sunrise Sanitation regarding the changes in accepting recyclables. The individual he spoke to informed Myers that, not only were the services abused by including trash and not properly sorting the products, but there is no longer a market for plastics. Auvil informed bags of plastic were still being set out where only aluminum and cardboard is being accepted, with City Police Chief J.E. Kopec stating he had checked on that situation and Sunrise agreed to go ahead and take it this time since the containers were removed prior to their announced time. Unfortunately, since that pick up, people have continued placing items other than cardboard and aluminum at the recycling receptacles raising concern for what’s to come.
Councilwoman Amy Wagner expanded on the trash topic with concerns over the former Shop N’ Save location. She and Jones stated the trash cans have become overfilled in front of the store and more trash is accumulating. Wagner also stated that visitors coming from out of town still see advertisements on the billboards and exterior walls of the building and wouldn’t know the business has relocated. She would like to see the area cleaned up and proper signage affixed to inform potential patrons that the location has changed and that that facility is closed.
Sponagule proceeded offering a handout with main bills pertaining to municipal leagues that are presently in the senate and house. One she highlighted was House Bill 4442 which would require the city to pay their own jail bills for those arrested by city officials for the first seven days of their incarceration. “We don’t budget for that, we don’t have the funding for that,” Sponaugle stated. She also informed that Myers along with Councilman and Recorder Bruce Kolsun recently attended a voting training and agreed the city will do vote by mail for early voting again this year.
There was a Blueprint Community meeting recently where recreational activities were discussed ensuring all parties were in agreement with the desires of recreational offerings for the City of Parsons. Pete Roy, an employee of the city through an aged program, will be finishing up his tenure in March. “He is a great worker,” commented Sponaugle, though he only works 15 hours per week. Myers has recommended to the Personnel Committee keeping Roy on at the same schedule working at either the parks or the cemetery. This would allow one to two other employees be hired through the aged program, which is a four year term and free to the city.
She continued by reiterating the need to increase the sewer tariff rates because even though costs have been cut and no overtime allowed, there is a shortage. Since the last rate increase in 2012, wages for city employees have increased 12% along with insurance increases and chemical costs. The PSC requires the percentages for water and sewage be at 1.5% with water currently at 1.45% and sewage at 1.24%. A committee meeting is scheduled for next week to discuss potential call out fees to be implemented to customers if the city responds to sewage backup for example only to discover the backup is on the residents’ service line and not the main. Wagner informed she disagreed with this because without the city coming to investigate an issue, there is no way for the city employee or the resident to know where the issue actually is, be it in city lines or customer service lines.
A meeting is scheduled with the Board of Education to discuss the city taking over the gym on February 26. Myers is hoping to have the building evaluated prior to the meeting to become aware of needs the building may have. Myers and Kolsun have also spoke to the new company addressing the city ordinances, which they were informed they should have something to review within the next couple months.
Auvil followed with a committee report stating they met with Thrasher Engineering to discuss city projects and potential grant opportunities for assistance. Auvil thinks Hamrick PSD should partner with Parsons on the water connection project especially if they receive a grant to assist with the costs. He offered the option of securing a loan for approximately five years to pay Parsons’ part on the project, which he stated, “It’s a very doable project.” However, again it was brought up that the water and sewage rates need to be in compliance to qualify for grants for such a project.
Unfinished business began with matters pertaining to the Parsons Sewer Extension Project. Bids are to be received until February 18 at 2 p.m. which will then be publically opened and read. The estimated cost for the project is $500,000 with Kingsford contributing $125,000 and the city paying $100,000. Once the bid is awarded, construction is expected to begin within 60 to 90 days.
The Parsons Industrial Park Project committee needs to be addressed with a member moving out of state. An advertisement needs to be placed for a consultant to perform a land use study. Auvil made a motion to do so with Jones seconding the motion.
The Wastewater System Improvements Project had mapping done earlier that day by Thrasher to prepare for testing. The results of this study can also have an impact on the new proposed sewage rates.
Matters pertaining to the Former P and C Furniture Store Building followed with a new advertisement for bids which are due by 2 p.m. on Friday, February 7. The new advertisement for bids was necessary due to the discovery of asbestos in the building. Clarifications were made on the new request for bids informing potential bidders that the company must have asbestos certifications and the understanding that as demolition occurs; debris must be evaluated and sorted with potential asbestos debris sent for testing and disposed of appropriately.
The right-of-way and lease agreements with Zayo Group, LLC. are currently at Attorney Pat Nichols office for review so could not move forward at this time.
New business began with a lease agreement with W.Va. Outdoor for the billboards situated on the Parsons Industrial Park property. The current lease agreement was provided to the council to review and make any changes felt necessary before moving forward. This agreement is for the billboard itself, not the advertisements placed on the structure.
It was also recommended to consider advertising for a consultant to complete a master plan for the Parsons Parks and Recreation with the current plan being outdated. Auvil made a motion to advertise for a consultant to do such with Kolsun making a second.
Under good of the order, Jones expressed sincere gratitude for the support from the city during the recent loss of her step-father. Sponaugle also stated that she recently received a call from a concerned citizen regarding the state of the basketball courts in River City Park. The council will look into these concerns and report back.
Councilman David Greenlief then made a motion to adjourn with a second by Kolsun. The next meeting of the Parsons City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18 at 6 p.m.