By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
“There’s some rumors going out through the county that I want to bring them down,” began Commission President Lowell Moore at the recent Tucker County Commission meeting. “It’s over the minutes that come from the Planning Commission, I’m the one that requested the minutes, and it has nothing to do with the political agenda, and there’s nothing in there about a political agenda,” he continued. He said the rumors circulating are that property owners will not be allowed to turn their land over to their kids according to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, to which Moore confirmed, “That is not true, people.” He continued, “The old ordinance that was proposed late last summer a year ago, was put to rest, it’s dead.” A new, less strenuous ordinance is in development, which Moore stated is needed, “But, it has to meet Tucker County’s needs.”
Moore contacted the Planning Commission and asked them to, “Disregard working on this (the SALDO) for one year.” This would allow ample time for review and revisions as well as public round-table discussions to be had prior to voting. “I think we all agree that it should be postponed for a year because to make this ordinance available to the public of Tucker County, we need to bring it down to where it will meet Tucker County’s needs, it will be beneficial for Tucker County, but we need to have round-table meetings around the county to let everybody have their say and see the benefits of it, and we can’t do that right now because of COVID-19,” Moore said. It was for these reasons Moore asked for the minutes of that meeting, which have made their way into the county and are being misrepresented to residents.
Commissioner Jon Bush added to the clarification by saying that the minutes stated Moore requested a private meeting, which he said is not true, but what is factual is that Moore stated the County Commission is not ready to move forward with support of the SALDO at this time.
Bush stated that yes, he does support the implication of SALDO, but believes waiting until after the election. “So there’s two things wrong with this, number one, it was taken out of context, number two, go back to my original meeting as a County Commissioner, I picked up this right here, threw it on the desk, told them it was insulting, it was too many pages, and it was basically trying to make people ignorant.” He continued, “At the end of the day, this is about protecting Tucker County from large corporate developments and things that will come in here, because we are going to grow folks.” He stated that in the beginning he was not in favor of SALDO as it was presented, but does feel something needs put in place and the only reason he did not want it done prior to the election is because it is nearing the end of the year, and “and it shouldn’t be forced down the throats of Tucker County by the end of the year.”
Paul Pennington, Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor at Tucker County High School, brought several FFA members to the meeting to request financial support. Each student identified themselves with President Ethan Carr highlighting some of the activities they have been doing and plan to do this year. The members expressed a desire to attend the CDE competitions, Beef Bowl, and the Beef Expo. They requested $4,000 at a meeting last year, however Moore stated since they were not on the agenda they could not move on the matter. He suggested they work with County Clerk Sherry Simmons regarding the budget.
Pennington expressed concern over the FFA members not being permitted to compete in their competitions even though they can social distance and wear masks, however sports are still permitted. Though he is seeking answers to this, he requests the Commissioners to question these rules and assist in the matter if possible.
The minutes from September 9 were approved with a motion by Davis. Employee reports began with Kevin White, Director of the Office of Emergency Management. The COVID-19 stakeholders meetings are still taking place to keep everyone up to date on the pandemic. The radios have been ordered but have not yet been received with slower shipping speeds taking place across most manufacturers.
“We placed the order for the new technology we’re going to be placing into the OEM, the EOC,” White continued. This will allow the office to operate out of other locations in the case of an emergency. Stream cleanup has continued, mostly in the Leadmine area so far, which should offer a dramatic improvement to the area.
White provided a photo of the new response truck that will be received soon, which is being paid for mostly by grants. “We paid a very little amount to get a new piece of equipment,” he added.
Interim 911 Director Beverly Cantrell reported that the radios from the Leadmine CERT group have been ordered and will be setting up a class for those individuals. “I do have some road signs due to arrive today,” Cantrell stated with more on the way. The 911 Center is also awaiting the arrival of equipment from Bearcom for installation.
County Administrator Sheila DeVilder told Commissioners that the Wilson Restoration group is continuing to work on the final phase of the brick restoration. The new CFIA grant application is almost complete which will be filed by the October 1 deadline. An additional CARES Act application for the month of August has also been submitted by DeVilder with a lot of her time currently being dedicated to the EMS Fee collection.
New business began with revisiting the request to add JNH Towing and Recovery, which is out of Elk Garden, to the towing rotation. This item was tabled last meeting to allow more time to gather information. Moore contacted the company to discover their nearest truck is stationed at the top of Scherr Mountain, which caused concern for the commissioners and the company’s response time to the farthest sides of the county. He explained to JNH that due to those concerns, they could not be added to the rotation; however they could be put on as a backup for the eastern area of the county. Moore made the motion to place them on as a backup with Commissioners Fred Davis and Bush in favor.
The Economic Development Grant Programs Resolution was read by Bush which states the Commission supports the corporate efforts within the community and wishes to apply for funding for fiscal year 2021. It is the Commissioners understanding that this money is being requested to support the feasibility study for the wastewater issues in Davis, Thomas, and surrounding areas. Bush made the motion to approve the request with all in favor.
Moore made a motion for the Courthouse Facilities Grant Resolution approval which has been the program used to preserve the historic Tucker County Courthouse over the past several years. Moore made the motion with everyone in agreement. Davis made a motion to pay the bills as presented and the motion carried.
Davis began his report with an update on the fiber optic installation line in St. George and Leadmine, though it will not be installed in Limestone. Thomas has also been seeing line installation of new lines, though unfortunately they will not receive any benefits of these fiber optics, they will be solely for Federal use.
A citizen approached Davis to ask about designation of wetland on a property on Cortland Road. Davis stated that Western Pocahontas Properties has just purchased another 100 acres of property and Fish and Wildlife Services another 300 acres, which cuts into the tax revenue for the county. “We just keep losing money and it’s really hurting us,” he added.
Davis wanted to clarify what was brought up in the last meeting relating to what he signed for the EMS Fee Ordinance. He stated that what he signed was a revision of the ordinance, not the original, which was made to clarify some of the language in the previous document.
Dr. PS Martin along with other staff from Ruby Memorial Hospital will be serving on the Tucker County ambulance crews free of charge. “And I want to tell people this, I want this on record, as the Commission, we have to give money to the EMS,” Davis stated. The Commission has over 20 boards they are a part of and at times there are meetings they cannot be in attendance. “When I went out last week, everybody bombarded me saying I did this and I did that, well I didn’t do it, I wanted it on record today to put in there that I didn’t do nothing to try to hurt nobody on this or anybody’s pockets.” Davis said he would appreciate people not harassing the EMS workers, “Because it’s nothing to do with them with this money.” He concluded, “We will do our best to do whatever to make this county better, and I promise you, I will try.”
Bush spoke briefly on the EMS billing issues that the Commission is very well aware of and are working to resolve. He added that though it is widely believed, this ordinance is not the Commissioners taxing the people of Tucker County; it is required by the state. “We don’t fund EMS for free and the Fire Departments and all the other things that happen here,” Bush confirmed. He continued by saying that if it weren’t for the expanded services, there have been several, critical calls that may not have had the same outcome without the EMS in the position they currently are thanks to the fee.
This concluded the business for the Tucker County Commissioners who will come together again on Wednesday, October 14 at 9 a.m. The meeting will take place in the Tucker County Courthouse, which is open to the public though masks are required.