By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Councilwoman Melissa Jones and the City of Parsons Ordinance Committee met recently to thoroughly review the city ordinances that require updating. Once the changes are made, the documents will then be sent to Attorney Pat Nichols for review before the Council will vote on the changes.
Some of the highlighted ordinances discussed included changing the Mayor and Recorder from a two-year term to a four-year term and staggering the Council Members to ensure all members would not be up for re-election at the same time. Those who are appointed to Council will run the full term of the position they fill rather than up until the next election.
The discussion commenced regarding charges for stormwater roof run-off, which City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers explained would be included in the tariff rather than the ordinances. This would also include new charges for a call-out fee and a non-compliance fee that would be charged for dumping inappropriate materials into the sewage system which causes obstructions.
Councilwoman Amy Wagner expressed the desire to ensure the ordinances and codes are clearly written with the upcoming hiring of a new Code Enforcement Officer. Myers explained that the training the Code Enforcement Officer will be receiving is covered by a grant the City received.
Myers also made note of the ordinance containing a vacant building registry that requires owners of buildings within city limits that are not in use to register them with the business office. “The first year that they register, it’s for free,” he explained. If nothing is done with the building after the first year, the second year the owners will be assessed a fee that will increase each year. “If they don’t pay the fee,” Myers explained, “we put a lien on it.” The property can then be foreclosed on and go to the court system where the City could be awarded ownership of the property.
The minutes from the January 19 meeting were approved with a motion from Councilman Tim Auvil and Jones. Danielle Sponaugle, Financial Director, presented an invoice list one for $86,303.81 which was approved with a motion from Auvil and Wagner with Jones abstaining. Invoice list two for $501.57 followed and also passed with motions from Auvil and Jones with Councilman David Greenlief abstaining.
Myers prepared a monthly financial report for November and December along with revenue control reports for the General and Coal Severance Funds. ELCON Technologies submitted a quote for $15,400 for a backwash pump. “That’s critical and we don’t have an option in it,” said Auvil. “And, we’re down to one,” added Myers. This is essential to keeping the City of Parsons in water. Auvil suggested using the $5,000 out of the City’s Utilities Stabilization Fund and the remaining costs to be covered with the Rainy Day Fund and made a motion to reflect that suggestion. Jones second the motion with a unanimous vote in agreement.
A quote from Sonny’s Carpet was up for consideration for porcelain tile and a base layer at the Water Treatment Plant in the office. The quoted total was $6,247.40 which Auvil stated there is $7,000 in the Water Treatment Plant Repairs Fund that would cover this expense. Auvil and Jones made a motion to approve the purchase with all in favor.
Parsons City Police Chief K.L. Keplinger told the Council that with the recent weather, traffic has been slower through the area with only 13 stops since the last meeting. “We’ve had five calls for service, we’re continuing to do funeral escorts, and we have had one felony arrest as a result of a motor vehicle stop,” said Chief K.L. Keplinger. He commended Lieutenant Gidley for his work on the felony arrest case.
There are two ongoing felony investigations ongoing and the City Police Department is working closely with the Tucker County Sheriff Department. A recent vehicle stop resulted in the recovery of approximately $3,400 in cash, heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. The intelligence exchange program is up and running, which Chief K.L. Keplinger suggests will be an asset to the department.
Interviews are being conducted with the applicants for the Code Enforcement Officer position, which Chief K.L. Keplinger stated it will be a difficult decision to make from the pool of several qualified candidates. His department is working with the Office of Emergency Management and the Health Department to serve as traffic control for the drive-thru style Covid shot clinics. “It worked extremely well on Friday,” he said with plans to continue the clinic every Friday as long as the vaccinations are available.
Myers met with The Woodlands Development Group who is going to proceed with plans to renovate the building that houses Charlotte’s Thrift Store. “They are going to start with the conceptual design and start proceeding with the purchase and things like that,” said Myers. Arrangements will be made for temporary housing for the families living in the apartments. The goal of the building is for four apartments upstairs with two commercial spaces on the first floor.
Discussion then shifted to the lot where the former P & C Furniture Store was and how that would be utilized. Wagner stated she was under the impression that it was intended to be sold to help recoup some of the cost of tearing down the building. Jones agreed stating it was also discussed to sell the lot in Porterwood to assist in those costs. Wagner and Jones suggested offering the lot at a price to serve as a parking lot for the future tenants of the soon to be remodeled thrift store. “We’ll address that when the time comes,” said Auvil.
Myers then announced that the Governor’s office has run out of money in the CARES Act, therefore all of the reimbursement forms sent in from November and December will not be honored. Around $60,000 was received up until October, but anything beyond that has been denied at this time. Myers was told the equipment purchased to be used at the Community Center for the dance classes as well as the door for City Hall would be covered, therefore it was purchased. Unfortunately, these items, though already purchased, will not be reimbursed which totaled approximately $16,000.
After the conversation took place, Myers received a call back from the National Guard who wanted to help. He suggested several grants that could be applied for, however grants cannot be reimbursed, therefore could not be utilized to cover these items.
Cindy Kolsun with the Parsons Revitalization Organization (PRO) was present via ZOOM to provide an update on the Blessing Box Project to the Council. “First of all, I would really like to thank Chris (Funk) for looking at the fact that we have a need in the town for the box,” she began. The initial plan was to install five boxes, but after further research, it was decided to erect a box at the First United Methodist Church which will offer food pantry items. “Let’s start small and see how it’s working,” said C. Kolsun with hopes the future will bring more box opportunities. “We do not want to fail with this project,” she added.
Chris Funk was also on ZOOM stating he wanted to give the reigns of the project over to the City and PRO. “I just want to see this successful,” he said. Mayor Dorothy Judy assured PRO and the City were willing to do their part to ensure the project is a success.
Wagner asked about the fundraisers Funk performed and how much was raised to go towards the boxes. He stated approximately $2,100 was donated with around 60% of donations coming from outside of the state.
The first reading of the Proposed Sewer Tariff No. 10 was reviewed noting any changes that were made. Auvil and Jones motioned to approve the first reading with all of Council in favor.
A letter from Attorney Pat Nichols was read by Auvil in reference to the concerns brought to the Council by Jerry Hardy at the last meeting and the question of the business license fees. Nichols stated, “I see no real category where a laundromat falls into.” The letter further read, “I would recommend you amend the business license fee section to reflect car washes and/or laundromats. At this time I feel they are regular businesses and would fall under the $15.00 fee. Our ordinances as I see it does not address these businesses.” Myers announced that per his conversation with Nichols, this would be from this point in time forward. Auvil and Jones motioned to accept the recommendation from the Attorney with all in favor.
Under new business, it was suggested to apply to the State of W.Va. for approval to name the Black Fork Bridge as the “William and Louise Harman Memorial Bridge.” Myers contacted Delegate Chris Phillips and asked if he would sponsor the request because it must start in the House of Delegates and pass both chambers. Recorder Bruce Kolsun made the motion to apply for the approval with a second from Jones and all in agreement.
This concluded the business for the Parsons City Council who will meet again on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 6 p.m.