By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Virtual meetings have become quite popular amongst county and municipality entities as a way to perform business due to the efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Parsons City Council came together via ZOOM online on Tuesday, April 21 at 6 p.m. to get caught up on agenda’s that has gone by without a meeting due to the pandemic. All members were present with the exception of Councilman Kenneth Morrison.
Mayor Dorothy Judy called the meeting to order with The Pledge of Allegiance and an opening prayer. Minutes from the meeting on March 17 were approved with Jason Myers, City Administrator and Treasurer providing financial statements to the council. “You have a financial statement there for March 31, 2020,” Myers directed the council. A motion was made by Councilman Tim Auvil with a second by Councilwoman Melissa Jones and all in favor.
Financial Administrator Danielle Sponaugle presenting the invoices. “Now you have invoice list number one in front of you, it’s really long and I’m sorry for that, it is for $104,741.16,” which is for an entire month of payments. Myers also explained that due to the cancellation of the carnival, the Fire Department has requested a $10,000 withdrawal from the fire fee adding to the overall total. Auvil made a motion to approve with a second by Recorder Bruce Kolsun. Sponaugle then provided invoice two in the amount of $1,330.39, which was also approved with Councilman David Greenlief abstaining. A quote from Energy Express to replace 366 feet of chain link fence eight feet in height at River City Park near the baseball field was presented in the amount of $11,725. A motion was made to move forward with the project with a unanimous vote.
A proclamation was signed by Mayor Judy to recognize April as National Donate Life month for 2020. Kolsun commented, “Donating an organ is really important, I really saw how important it was October 1, 2018,” when Kolsun was going through this with his son. “It’s such an important thing and you don’t realize how important it is until you go through it,” he added. “I told Jon Bush it was in honor of him also,” added Judy, which she said he was much appreciated and will be requesting the same proclamation from the Tucker County Commission.
Myers announced the filing dates to be considered for Parsons City Council has expired with the following applicants to appear on the ballot: Mayor, Dorothy Judy, Recorder, Bruce Kolsun, two year council member ward one, Melissa Jones, four year council member ward one, David Greenlief, Sr., two year council member ward two, Sam Blosser, Kathy DiBacco, and Michael Matlick. The Parsons election will coincide with the county election timeline with Election Day being held on June 9. “The only change that’s going to be made is that our normal precinct which is normally here at City Hall will be at the courthouse,” stated Myers with the other ward will remain at St. John’s Church. City residents will need to vote twice, once on the county ballot and again on the city ballot. Early voting is still available by mail and will be sent out next month.
Myers continued to make the council aware that business is continuing within the city building as normally as possible. Sponaugle is working from home and no employees have had to be laid off to date, though minor changes have been made to responsibilities. “A lot of you are aware that we did have two scares with some folks that had COVID symptoms, they were tested and both employees did come back negative, so thank God for that,” Myers stated.
Unfinished business began with matters pertaining to the sewage extension project to Kingsford Manufacturing. A verbal report from Thrasher Group confirmed that the contractor has to register with the federal government because the project is part of a federal grant, “Which is kind of like a background check for vendors,” Myers explained. With the pandemic going on, this has slowed the process. “The bids are only good until the eighteenth of next month, if in fact we can’t get this resolved by then we are going to ask the contractor to extend their bid for 30 days,” he added. According to Myers, the contractors have expressed no issues signing an extension if need arises.
Moving onto the topic of the Parsons Industrial Park, Myers stated approximately five consultants have expressed interest in the project. Those applicants have been turned over to Rob Burns and a virtual meeting is being coordinated to move forward with choosing a consultant.
A few weeks ago, a firm was on site to investigate the wastewater lines in reference to the Wastewater Systems Improvement Project. After attempting to run cameras through the lines for a couple days, the firm left due to the inability to access the lines because they were infiltrated with gravel. “So they seen they were basically wasting man hours and to keep the budget down so they can get more work done, they basically gave Red (John Lipscomb) a map for him to go through and clean out the lines prior to them coming,” Myers said. “In essence, they’ve called it off right now until we can get those lines open,” he added.
The Main Street demolition process has also been put on hold due to workers needing to cross state lines as well as the lack of PPE (personal protection equipment). Knowing asbestos is present, it is unsafe to continue until proper equipment is on hand, though the foreman expects to be done within the contract guidelines.
Prior to the meeting, the Zayo Group sent Myers a proposed agreement between them and the city. The group has expressed interest in renting a small plot within the gates at the City Garage in Bretz to fence in and construct a building to house their fiber transmission equipment. Within the agreement, the group agreed to $700 per month with two year renewal terms. Myers will have Attorney Pat Nichols review the agreement prior to signing, however pending his approval Jones made a motion to accept with Auvil making a second.
Since last gathering, Councilman David Greenlief contacted W.Va. Outdoors, owners of the billboard at the entrance of city limits, who provides a monthly lease to the city to keep their structure on the property. There has been a long term relationship between the city and the company, though the terms have not been negotiated in quite some time. It was agreed upon to increase the monthly cost from $100 to $150 with potential to place additional signage in the future. “We may be able to get as many as two billboards up there,” said Greenlief, “one on either side of the road.” Jones asked if it was discussed to omit the clause in the agreement stating no other signage can be placed within certain proximity of their billboard, which Greenlief said it was not discussed, but said, “Their signage is going to be up high enough that I don’t think it’s going to interfere.” Jones said the current agreement has stipulation relating to signage being prohibited within a set amount of feet from the billboards, but Greenlief said, “That is something that would have to be negotiated, I don’t think that’s going to be, because he was extremely excited about that possibility of putting more signage up.” Auvil agreed this agreement is acceptable or a year and can be re-evaluated at that point pending progress on the Industrial Park. Greenlief made the motion to accept $150 per month for one year with a second by Auvil and all in agreement.
There was no action on board members for the Economic Development Board due to no recent meetings. The 2021 levy rates were presented with the approved budget, which Myers said was approximately $1,000 higher than last year. All members agreed to approve the levy as presented.
A proposal from Verglas Media out of Davis was submitted for consideration to construct a City of Parsons Website. This company has also developed West Virginia Farmer’s Market website, Best of Canaan, as well as the Town of Davis site. “What this website will do, because I know you all have been harping, and I wanted to do it as local as I could, and this one here came very highly recommended, she’s in our county, and does good work,” Myers said. Contact has been made on several occasions to ensure the proposal included every aspect the council has expressed interest in including on a city website. Options would include meeting agendas and minutes, ordinances, all office forms, permits, and applications, make water bill payments, rent the parks and pavilions, and manage wellness center memberships, sign up for alert such as boil water notices, and more. The company will be training Sponaugle and Myers, making them capable of maintaining the website to save on the overall cost. The funds for this site will be spread across all budgets due to the benefit to the entire city, in the amount of $8,190. Jones made the motion to enter into the agreement and accept the proposal for the city website with Auvil making a second.
The next agenda item was the consideration of a proposal from Tygarts Valley Conservation District to perform work on the Pulp Mill Bottom pond. A meeting was held with the foreman who was also the lead over the Mill Race Park Slew Project, Wamsley Run, and the park entrance. After walking the area, Myers stated, “We’re not going to be able to get water coming in from Sugar Camp Road.” “We did see one area where we could get some fresh water coming in there, that’s coming under Buzz Harper’s,” he continued. There’s a possibility to channel water coming off Water Plant Road that could potentially help flow into the pond as well. The consensus from the foreman was that the pond needs to be breeched to drain the water to then clean out the sediment with equipment to increase the current depth of approximately three feet to around eight feet. This will assist in eliminating lily pads and vegetation growth and encourage sustainable fish habitat. Myers informed the foreman immediately that the city only has $20,000 set aside for this project and cannot exceed that amount. He continued to say, “But you need to remember, once we get this grant for this, all the work that’s going to be done over there we’re going to have your agency do.”
The foreman worked on a contract and returned to the city office the other day with a proposal in hand agreeing to do the work for $20,000 which will help get his employees back to work. “It sounds like we’re getting a bargain,” proclaimed Judy, which Myers agreed. The fish that are in the pond will be caught and relocated while work is being conducted and once refilled, arrangements will be made with the DNR to stock the pond and make it fishable. Auvil asked if the overflow pipe will be replaced while the pond is drained, which Myers confirmed it would. Auvil also expressed concern for adequate input, which Myers said, “What he said was if we want to get it filled up faster, and I think Sammy told them, we can get a pump and we can pump the water out of the river into the pond and get it filled up quicker.” After the pond is full, Myers confirmed there is enough water to “turn the water over” to prohibit the algae growth. It was suggested to reach out to the Fire Department to assist with the pond refill from the river to cut down on the time it would take. Auvil also asked if it was confirmed that no special permits were needed due to the area being a designated wetland with Myers responding, “Dan (the foreman) said he will take care of all of that.” Jones made the a motion to approve the contract with the suggestion that word be put out to the public that the area will be off limits during construction and a second was made by Kolsun. “This is exciting, especially for the kids to give them a place to fish,” concluded Judy.
Councilman Samuel Blosser took the floor to inform the council the new backhoe has been received, however after very little use the piece of equipment broke down. “It’s got a glitch in the computer, State Equipment is supposed to be here to fix it this week or next week,” stated Blosser. The white backhoe is back in operation and being utilized. Blosser will be speaking with Auvil and Morrison on whether the Fleet Committee wants to offer the 1996 backhoe for sale as originally planned or contribute it to the parks, who borrows the city equipment on a regular basis. “Are you still talking about selling it outright or are we talking about just transferring it to the parks for that usage over there,” asked Auvil. Greenlief suggested if a piece of equipment was available, “We’d be ahead to let them have it.” A Fleet Committee meeting will be scheduled to discuss this topic further.
An application was received for the seasonal groundskeeper position; unfortunately, that individual did not pass the background check and was ineligible. The personnel Committee was given the authority to make a recommendation of an eligible candidate to the Mayor for hire by any legal means necessary due to the urgency. This could lead to outsourcing the mowing for the 2020 season. Greenlief made the motion with a second by Jones.
Moving into correspondences, a letter was received by Steve Leyh with the Tucker County Development Authority informing the City Council that the proposed multi-county broadband project was deemed not viable. The Tucker County Commission is moving forward with their efforts, but on behalf of the Development Authority, that project has ceased.
W.Va. Highlands Student Art Show (START) that has secured numerous sponsorships, including from Parsons, has been forced to cancel their art show for 2020. Their letter stated the sponsorships received would roll over towards the art show next year unless requested otherwise.
A copy of a letter from W.Va. Governor Jim Justice to President Donald Trump was also provided to the council in addition to a copy of the Chapter 11 Frontier Bankruptcy documents. Information was available relating to the Municipal League endorsing a community risk pool that will be considered for insurance coverage for the city.
Myers announced a COVID-19 meeting scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday and a state municipal call in meeting at 2:30 p.m. Councilwoman Amy Wagner thanked Myers for his help with assisting the small businesses in this trying time with attempts to secure financial assistance. “We need to stand together,” proclaimed Wagner, “its (COVID-19) going to be hard to come back from,” she added.
A motion was then made to adjourn the meeting of the Parsons City Council. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 6 p.m. via ZOOM.