By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
At the conclusion of the Harman Fund portion of the Parsons City Council meeting, the council proceeded with a regular session of business. The minutes from February 18 were reviewed and approved as presented moving into financial items.
Danielle Sponaugle, Financial Director, presented invoice list one for $50,032.14 with councilman Tim Auvil making a motion to pay and Councilwoman Melissa Jones making a second. Invoice list two for $161.17 was also approved with Councilman David Greenlief abstaining. A blank request for revisions to approved budget sheet was then presented to permit County Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers to fill out with information pertaining to the Betterment of the Citizens of Parsons Harman Fund distribution which also passed unanimously. A levy estimate budget sheet was presented to council to recognize a revision to the property tax levy rates. Auvil made a motion to recognize the revision with Jones acknowledging with a second. Myers also provided the monthly financial report ending February 29 with Auvil making a motion to acknowledge with Councilman Samuel Blosser making a second.
The meeting moved into committee reports beginning with City Police Chief J.E. Kopec. There were three misdemeanors, zero felony, five misdemeanor arrests, two traffic crashes, three speeding citations, five other citations, six traffic warnings, two public appearances, and 11 code enforcement public contacts. One of the appearances was joining the Genesis Center youth for lunch, which he felt was a positive experience. Kopec recapped a minor incident that happened with a resident hitting a dumpster, but an understanding is being sought between the city and the individual. Councilwoman Amy Wagner asked about the status of the camper she has mentioned, though Kopec hasn’t made that contact yet but will be doing so this week. Another area of concern relating to trash was also addressed and is currently cleaned up with hopes it stays that way. Jones also asked for the ordinance to be checked regarding a pet pig in city limits, acknowledging it hasn’t been an issue but just to ensure ordinances are met.
Myers took over with his report beginning with informing the council that, after speaking with the accountant working on the sewage rates and discovered it will be a 20% increase on the rates which is equivalent to $4.30 increase on the minimum bills. “Water at this point is fine,” said Myers. “That actually puts us at our 115% coverage that also takes into account 2% cost of living raises that we give our employees over the next three year, that also is 5% for, you know, any insurance charge,” answered Myers. Jones acknowledged that several municipalities have been enforcing utility rate increases recently.
Sponaugle read an email from Maria Kostakos relating to the cemetery project. The letter stated that most of the work she is capable of doing without assistance with someone familiar with the cemetery is complete. She said there is still quite a bit of work to do on site with someone familiar with the burial details that would help clear up some discrepancies between the maps. The goal is to set up a meeting sometime next month to show the city what has been completed, but she is unable to provide an estimate for phase three of the project until she gathers more information.
The light project in the parking lot is complete and the Mill Race Park cameras are up and operating. There was recently a complaint about an individual walking a dog without a leash and failure to clean up behind the dog, which the 4K camera’s easily picked up and assisted the city in addressing this issue. The one camera set up at the entrance does rotate to follow the vehicles as they enter the park and now the park is open twenty- four seven. Jones suggested a do not block sign to be placed at the old entrance gate due to individuals parking and blocking access to the garage.
Myers continued informing council that the Parsons Community Center has been under construction as well as the unemployment rate has dropped from 2.25% to 2.0%. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the city will not be shutting off any services; however, the patrons are still required to pay their bills on time. Those who have recently been shut off have been re-instated per PSC request.
Unfinished business began with the Parsons Sewer Extension Project with a letter from Thrasher Engineering. The low bidder, Brian Vandevender Contracting, LLC, had their licensure and certifications reviewed and it was determined the company is permitted to perform the work. The base bid was $488,030.50 with an additive alternate of $40,000 for a booster station for the Industrial Park, bringing the total for the project to $528,030.50. Jones made a motion to award the contract and allow Mayor Judy to sign all documents pertaining to the project with Auvil making a second and all in agreement.
Matters pertaining to the Parsons Industrial Park followed with Myers stating that an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) were put out and expire this evening. There were three or four consulting firms who submitted documentation, which will be submitted to Rob Burns and the Development Authority to review and set up interviews. Their recommendation will then be presented to the city council.
The Wastewater System Improvement Project is being evaluated by Thrasher Engineering where robots have been run through manhole’s to determine the condition of the system. “Our systems in bad shape,” stated Myers. The city employees have been working alongside Thrasher with a vac truck to remove gravel and debris from the system to provide access for Thrasher’s equipment. Discussion commenced about the run off issues that doesn’t seem to be related to rainfall. Myers also noted an additional drain is being put in at the Tucker County Manor due to a run off issue from a new construction.
The former P and C Furniture Store building will begin demolition soon, but it was requested to extend the contract for an additional 30 days. The reason being is the same company doing the work, SafeCo Environmental Inc., has also been awarded the contract to remove the former Jack the Kings building. This would allow the company 60 days to perform both removals. The projected start date is approximately 10 days. The city employees will be flagging when needed which assisted in the overall price of the project.
There was no action taken on the right of way or lease agreement for the Zayo Group LLC at this meeting moving into consideration on a lease agreement with WV Outdoor for the billboards location on the Parsons Industrial Park. Attorney Pat Nichols has reviewed the lease and made suggestions relating to such. This agreement began in 1981 and the price per month has increased very little. If the lease agreement extends two years, legal advertisements must be made. Jones mentioned in a former meeting about language including the restrictions on where city signs could be placed in relation to the billboard due to plans to relocate signs for the Industrial Park. Myers said it was up to the council on what is included in the lease. “How much are you leasing it for,” asked Wagner, “because that’s what we talked about before.” At this time it was listed at $100 per month. “And how much are they charging people to put signs on there?” she asked. It was requested at the last meeting that information pertaining to their fees to advertise on that board be made known to help determine an adequate fee for them to pay the city. Judy laughed, “Oh they’re not making that much money.” Myers stated he had no idea how much they charge. Judy thought the politicians pay $200 per month to advertise, but Wagner said, “I want to check on that, I want to know how much they’re getting to rent it every month.”
The council agreed that there should be no stipulations relating to the city placing signs where desired in relation to the billboard, the size of 12 feet by 50 feet cannot be changed, if the company converts to an LED sign, a new contract must be made, and a two year term with first refusal and council having the option to address the contract. Myers asked if the council wanted $100 per month at two years with Wagner again saying, “No, that’s what I want to talk about, I want to know how much they’re getting paid so we can see.” Jones agreed that the price needs to be considered because the increase in the lease has went up minimally since beginning the agreement 39 years ago. “They’re probably making big bucks off of that,” said Wagner. “No they’re not,” replied Judy. “Do you know that for a fact?” asked Wagner. “We should have called an expert for this, this is ridiculous,” laughed Judy. “What you find ridiculous I don’t find ridiculous, it’s all about money, it’s about making money,” said Wagner. “We are billing people for the cost of living, what makes the difference if we don’t raise something because of cost of living,” said Jones. Judy said she just felt it was too complicated with Jones responding, “No it’s not complicated because you’re looking at over 20 years ago at $100.” “Well we delayed it last time,” stated Judy. “Well that’s because I said it last time that I wanted to know how much they’re paying for the signage and I still don’t have an answer,” Wagner said. “Madam Mayor,” chimed in Greenlief, “That is something that is pertinent to the situation because that is an entry point to the pending Industrial Facility that you don’t want to limit our access to that and I would suggest that perhaps, in light of the fact that you do not know exactly what’s going on at this point in time there, to not look past 12 months on it.” Wagner agreed that re-evaluating on a yearly basis would be the best option. Judy then recommended the council table the item until more details are gathered to make a better informed decision. Jones asked, “Dave what do you think about the rent, do you think the rent should go up from $100?” “Quite frankly, yes,” said Greenlief agreeing that unless a contract with the company is in place, some companies could be charging as much as $500 to $600 per month to advertise. “But nonetheless, I would say probably asking a little bit more for it would not be a shameful thing to do but you do not lock us in to where we can’t use that piece of property for five years when we may need it in 12 months.” Greenlief made a motion to table this item with a second by Kolsun.
A loan under the WVPRI Code Enforcement Technical Support Program was received to allow Code Enforcement Officer Nick Gidley to become a certified officer. However, Gidley is set to attend the W.Va. State Police Academy next month so concerns were mentioned if the funds would expire. Myers was under the impression it would not, therefore all agreed to allow Judy and Kolsun to execute all documents pertaining to the funds.
It was suggested to hire a professional staff member to maintain the water quality and fish at the Pulp Mill Bottom Pond. “I think it’s a good idea but we don’t have the funds for it at this time and I think we need to get the restorations done to move forward with this,” suggested Auvil. He suggested keeping this applicant on file for future considerations. Auvil made the motion to not move forward at this time with Jones making a second and all in agreement.
There was no action to be taken pertaining to the Personnel Policy Handbook nor the board member changes on the Parsons Economic Development Authority. The final item under old business related to the former Jack the King’s building. Both properties formerly owned by Carolyn Gray is now owned by the City of Parsons with the agreement that a plaque will be installed stating the real estate was donated by Carolyn Gray and Delvin Knotts in memory of Greg “Stumpy” Gray. SafeCo Enviromental Inc. was the only bidder to perform the demolition to the building in the amount of $37,000. The council voted unanimously to award the contract.
Moving into new business, it was requested to wait another year on moving forward with the annex gymnasium and allow the city the first refusal. A consultant will be looking into the facility to determine whether this will be a feasible option for the city to take on ownership thereof. Auvil made that as a motion with Kolsun offering a second.
The terms and objectives were reviewed from The Rodeheaver Group P.C. and approved by a motion from Jones and Morrison. A letter of support was agreed upon to send out on behalf of the Parsons Volunteer Fire Department’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus. Auvil made a motion to proceed with Jones offering a second and Morrison abstaining. The council also agreed to sponsor a table at the Randolph-Tucker Children’s Advocacy Center’s Annual Champions for Children Event on April 4 if permissible due to COVID-19. The amount to sponsor is $250 and has been done in the past, therefore Auvil made a motion to sponsor with Jones making a second. Council also agreed to serve as a sponsor for the Blackwater Canyon Half Marathon n the amount of $250.
The next item was to consider the Potable Water Reservoir Maintenance Proposal and Contract from Liquid Engineering Corporation. This is what allows for the scuba divers to go into the tanks to inspect and perform repairs as needed. Myers was concerned that the term length extended up until 2036 and suggests moving forward with a limit of 2021 for the amount of $3,270. Jones then made a motion to purchase a 2013 Case 580 Backhoe from United Rentals with all in agreement. This item will be financed on a six year term through Country Roads Leasing with a motion from Councilman Samuel Blosser and a second from Jones. Spring cleanup will potentially be held Monday, April 20 through April 24 pending social distancing restrictions are lifted. A motion was then rescinded from January 8 to sell the 2007 Dodge Dakota to the Parsons City Cemetery for $100 which also passed.
Under good of the order, Mayor Judy informed the council that the Tucker County Extension Office requested to set up the Farmers Market on Front Street where the Jack the King building will be torn down and empty. This concluded this meeting of the Parsons City Council with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 7 at 6 p.m. This is pending any further actions taken on behalf of the COVID-19.