By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The first line item under new business for the Tucker County Commission was a proposal for paid parental family medical leave. “That is something new that we’ve come up with,” began Commission President Lowell Moore, “I hope this is good news.” He read the proposal which stated all full time employees with at least one year of employment would qualify for this policy. It allows females that have or adopt a child up to six weeks of paid leave and their spouses two weeks, though the time cannot be accumulated. Commissioner Jon Bush made the motion to approve the policy with Commissioner Fred Davis and Moore both in favor.
The minutes from the previous meeting were reviewed and approved as presented. Moore gave a brief update on the restoration of the Courthouse. This project was possible through a grant received by the county to restore and preserve a piece of county history, and Moore recognized County Administrator Sheila DeVilder on her work for this project.
DeVilder stated that she has received authorization to submit the August reimbursement requests for the CARES Act and is working on September that is due October 20. She asks that any entities participating in these reimbursement requests to get their proof of payment to her as soon as possible to be submitted.
Beverly Cantrell, Interim Director of 911, announced that the new LEPCE (Local Emergency Planning Committee) Chairman is Michael Simmons, she is the Vice Chairman, and the Secretary and Treasurer is Janet Canon. Cantrell has a goal to develop a CERT team (Community Emergency Response Teams) in all communities and is working to develop classes for those teams. She spoke briefly regarding the pilot program that is led by Dr. P.S. Martin, stating “I’m really excited about that program, I think Tucker County is blessed for having it.”
Davis mentioned two semi-trucks that were recently on Leadmine Mountain and asked about the signs being installed. “We have to do something or somebody is going to get killed,” said Davis, especially with school back in session and the bus travel. OEM Director Kevin White advised that all the signs are in place with the exception of Sugarland, but those signs are all that will be received. Cantrell responded that she was informed if truck drivers do not follow their GPS, they will be fined, which is more than likely why the signs are being ignored.
White proceeded with his report stating he is participating in a flood training program to help prepare in case of an emergency. The meetings of stakeholders within COVID-19 are ongoing and he encourages everyone to follow the guidelines. St. George Medical Center has increased testing over the last few weeks, with the increase in positive cases, which White commented, “We did apply for some PPE for them,” and it has been distributed.
The radios for the Leadmine CERT team have arrived at Miller Communications, but are awaiting approval from the state on the siren network. The OEM hosted a US Forest Service meeting that all first responders were invited to attend. Discussion items included the influx of traffic within the area, especially at Douglas Falls. Suggestions were made to the Forest Service about the traffic pattern, moving the gate, signage being posted, and road conditions and the possibility of a kiosk that would assist in lost hiker incidents. Additional meetings have been requested between the Forest Service and the Tucker County first responders to address areas of concern.
The new computers are installed at the OEM office which will allow for the office to be used as a backup location for 911. Stream cleanup is ongoing and the new OEM response truck has been delivered.
The first and final estate reports were approved by Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora and presented to the commissioners for approval. Bush read the names of the estates with Davis making a motion to approve and all in favor.
County Clerk Sherry Simmons supplied a list of proposed polled workers for approval, stating, “Our poll workers are the best.” She highlighted upcoming important dates to remember; including early voting from October 21 through the 31, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Saturdays, October 24 and 31 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the County Clerk’s Office. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3 from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the respective polling places. Masks are required to be worn within the polling places.
“As of yesterday, we have processed 475 absentee ballots, we have 317 ballots returned,” Simmons announced. The last day to hand deliver a ballot to the County Clerk’s Office is November 2. “Please do not take it to the polling location, if you do you will have to vote a provisional ballot,” she added.
Davis asked if a plan was in place in case of any incidents, such as harassment or attempted voter persuasion. Simmons responded there is a 100 foot rule for electioneering and if there is a situation at any polling place, the workers are to call 911. She added a comprehensive plan in place and the workers are thoroughly trained, stating, “I don’t think Tucker County will have any incidents.” Moore made a motion to approve the precinct polling worker list with all in favor.
A funding request was received from Heart of the Highlands Trail System, a board which Bush sits on. “They maintain our trail system,” explained Bush in addition to numerous improvements to the State Parks and other duties. “They have a coordinator, who is Cory Chase, and the funding request is actually to help underwrite his salary and expenses,” he continued. “I think it would be to our advantage to fund this,” Bush said. The request was for a maximum of $12,000.
“I’m not sure if that’s something that falls under the County Commission,” responded Moore. “I would think this would be something that our State Parks should be involved in and our Parks and Rec.” Moore referred to the CVB and the hotel/motel tax and what those funds are intended to be used for and that this may fall into that category. “As a County Commission we can’t get grants, they can,” he continued and preferred those opportunities were sought first.
Simmons agreed that the commission has never funded Heart of the Highlands and wasn’t sure if it would fall under the hotel/motel funding. Discussion commenced how the hotel/motel tax is set in code and who receives what funding from that income. Everyone agreed that the mission of Heart of the Highlands is greatly needed and the trails need maintained, but the funding may not fall under the County Commission.
Bush requested a copy of the Heart of the Highlands bi-laws and recent financials and questions the purpose of the commission sitting on their board. “If they’re asking for money they must feel they are somehow supported by us (the commission),” Bush said. Moore made the motion to deny the request for the time with both Bush and Davis in favor.
The payments were approved as presented then Davis went into his commissioner report. He commended the landfill on the vast improvements that have been and are being made. The liner in the new cell has been installed and there have been no further odor complaints. Davis is continuing to work on transportation opportunities for individuals 16 and older and need travel assistance to and from work.
Bush recently attended a Parks and Recreation meeting stating the condition of Camp Kidd, “It just doesn’t look good.” He said the P and R board is aware of the issues and they are looking at an implementation plan and staffing issues.
Moving into the topic of the Hyperloop, Bush stated that this is a great opportunity for Tucker County, though he recognizes a big issue with the infrastructure in Davis and Thomas. “Once the feasibility study is done, I would say funding for that is going to almost be thrown at them because they’ve got to get things up to speed,” he said.
LaMora wanted to add that law enforcement is aware of the cat cruelty issue that has happened in Thomas and asked for anyone with information to please contact law enforcement. Any incidents involving animals need to be reported to 911 so the proper authorities can be dispatched.
The next County Commission meeting will be on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m.