By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The most recent gathering of the Parsons City Council was a lengthier meeting with several items on the agenda to cover. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited followed by an opening prayer by Mayor Dorothy Judy. Recorder Bruce Kolsun took roll noting the absence of Councilman Kenneth Morrison.
Talia Schwelling with the Mon Forest Towns Partnership was present to allow the council to choose their signage as both Thomas and Davis have recently done. Parsons three icons will consist of music, rafting, and biking and their service icons will be gas, camping, food, propane, and lodging.
The minutes from December 17 were reviewed noting one correction. Invoices were presented by Finance Director Danielle Sponaugle with invoice one amounting to $98,378.51. This amount is larger than normal due to the cancellation of the last meeting. Two larger items were $24,436.19 for the cameras at Mill Race Park and $20,923.75, which is the quarterly insurance payment. Councilman Tim Auvil made a motion to pay invoice one with Kolsun making a second. Invoice two was then presented in the amount of $1,829.63 with Auvil making a motion to pay and Kolsun seconding, with Councilman David Greenlief abstaining.
City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers provided an updated project list pertaining to the Harman Memorial Fund noting that some money is available for reallocation. An estimate in the amount of $2,100 was up for approval to repair the gate at the city shop that was damaged during an accident in the last snow storm. An employee was operating the vac truck when the truck locked up and slid into the gate and post. The needed repairs were urgent, therefore the work has already been performed but the quote had to be approved by the council. Myers assured that accident protocol was complete and a full report was taken. The insurance will be covering the repairs to the vehicle minus the $1,000 deductible as well as reimbursing the city for the property repairs.
Employee and committee reports followed, beginning with Parsons City Police Chief J.E. Kopec. He provided a detailed activity report with a breakdown of December’s involvement of the City Police. There were five misdemeanor cases, two arrests were made by misdemeanor citation, one speeding citation, a public appearance in the Christmas Parade, three code enforcement public contacts were made with positive results, and $50 worth of drugs were seized during a traffic stop. Chief J.E. Kopec stated the barricade construction is underway, the flashlights have been handed out to the community watch participants, and informal training for those individuals was conducted. Also in police news, a local phone scam was resolved and Chief J.E. Kopec, along with Lieutenant D.E. Gidley, is currently partaking in annual required education with approximately half already complete. Upon completion it is planned to offer a demonstration class to the community watch participants to aid in their duties.
Councilwoman Amy Wagner asked of the status on a camper on Poplar Street that was addressed some time ago and the owner merely moved it to the neighbor’s property as well as a junk vehicle. Chief J.E. Kopec assured, “We’ll look into that.”
Myers followed with reports stating he has recently met with Rob Burns of the Tucker County Cultural District Authority. The city has received a grant to print a brochure along with signage showing ways to locate offices, amenities, parks, and more offerings within the city. It was asked the status of the Western Maryland Depot, to which Myers confirmed it is still a work in progress. This lead to a question by Wagner as to why the Corricks Ford Reenactments have not been taking place as they previously had. There was an issue after Hurricane Sandy with debris and wetlands preventing the use of horses in particular areas, however with the vast amount of cleanup that has taken place since that natural disaster it may be a possibility to bring back in the near future.
Recently there was a meeting regarding the Board of Education building and future ownership. The proposal is to revamp the entire building converting the upstairs into residential apartments and the downstairs serving as commercial space. It was suggested the residential rent range from $600 to $725 per month, “Which I believe is very reasonable,” stated Myers. The Tucker County Development Authority will be the ones to take on the project and incur the debt, which according to the cash flow projection looks like a doable project. The Board of Education offices will remain in their location rent free for as long as they desire.
The city would potentially become the new owners of the gymnasium portion of the building, though there are some concerns. The Mills Group along with Woodlands Development Group will assist the city in evaluating the building for needs. There is already a new floor and LED lighting, however Myers noted it would need a new water line. The corridor between the two buildings would need removed and the fence around the former preschool playground would be taken down. “We’re buying (acquiring at no compensation) it as is and it was built back in the 70s,” proclaimed Myers. The deed would have restrictions stating the little league will also have full use of the facility.
The new camera systems have been installed at Mill Race Park and just need aimed and programmed. Renovations within the Community Center are also underway and the Water Department has been fixing leaks in the distribution center. The Sewage Department has been dealing with an increase in backups due to hot grease being disposed of down drains. This causes a significant blockage in the system and the city officials ask patrons to refrain for doing this.
Myers announced to the council the upcoming Harman Fund distribution will be the largest ever to date. The estimated total is approximately $1,006,000. The principal of the trust has matured to around $20 million at last check, which was an increase from the November balance of $19.6 million. Myers recapped the guidelines for usage of the Harman Fund for a guest, stating that the first priority is to take care of the entire cemetery, second priority is the parks and recreation, thirdly is for maintenance and improvements of the Five Rivers Library, and lastly, whatever is left is intended for the betterment of the citizens of Parsons. He explained the council has the sole ability to spend the money how it sees fit. Wagner requested notice in advance the amounts requested by each entity to prepare for the meeting for distribution. Myers replied packets will be available a week prior.
Activity Director Tammy Greenlief was unable to attend the meeting, therefore she asked Myers to provide a list of upcoming events planned for the city. There will be a Family Night at Wellness 24 for members, on March 14 there will be a basketball tournament between the Tucker County Police and Tucker Volunteer Fire Departments, April 4 there is a Bunny Hop 5K as a fundraiser for Wellness 24 followed by an Easter Egg Hunt that afternoon, there are six park events scheduled for the summer, July 11 is slated for the second annual car show, and there may be another Fall Festival which will be determined later. A free spaghetti dinner for veterans and their families is also being considered with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade.
Auvil provided a brief update from the recent Parks and Recreation Committee meeting noting dumpsters have been relocated due to being used illegally. Unfortunately this has resulted in people tossing their trash on the ground. High on their priority list is a bathroom near pavilion one followed by the replacement of the bathroom by the slew. Councilwoman Melissa Jones has been approached by concerned citizens over the location of the food trailer. However, there isn’t another ideal option for the structure. Also on their radar is to finish the new entrance and look at installing a basketball court at the park.
Chief J.E. Kopec also read two notices from Code Enforcement Officer N.C. Gidley. The first was to inform of the lack of local certification programs pertinent to his position. He, along with Myers, is attempting to meet with the W.Va. Fire Marshall to clarify the most valuable areas of certification he should seek to move forward with his training. Officer N.C. Gidley also informed the council that final notices on several delinquent accounts will be distributed this week. The individuals will have a 20 day time span to make contact regarding these matters, anything beyond that timeframe filings will take place at the Tucker County Courthouse.
Unfinished business began with matters pertaining to the Parsons Sewer Extension Project. This project is currently out for bid and set to be awarded on February 18. The Industrial Park Project is moving forward with a final survey being received. A land use study was discussed to determine the best location for the several businesses committed to locating in the new location. Advertisements will be going out in the near future.
The former P&C Furniture Store building needing demolished was put out for bid in three papers. Ten contractors showed up expressing interest in the project. Unfortunately, asbestos was found on the first floor in the tile in the amount of 4%. The inspectors could not access the top floor due to safety concerns to confirm whether the second floor contained any. Knowing asbestos is present, it was suggested the entire building be treated to contain this substance and sent to a landfill certified to handle such materials. Doing such would result in an approximate $200,000 project which is outside of the scope of the city’s budget for the project. It was decided to extend the bids and make it known the bidders must have asbestos training and understand the debris will be sorted as tore down. Any debris questioned to contain asbestos will be sent for testing and pending results will be disposed of accordingly.
It was suggested to re-advertise the acceptance of sealed bids for the 2000 Sterling dump truck owned by the city. There will be no reserve set, however the council has the right to accept or reject any bid received.
New business discussion began with considering a right-of-way and lease agreement with Zayo Group, LLC who wishes to place a fenced location on city property for a potential fiber optic location. Of the three locations toured, the favored by the group was at the city shop. There was some discrepancies between the dimensions required to be fenced in, therefore that will be clarified. The Zayo Group will be responsible for paying a monthly rental for use of the property, which they offered at $650 per month though Auvil suggested $750 which Jones agreed. Attorney Pat Nichols will review the agreement prior to signing.
A motion was needed to permit staff to attend the West Virginia Municipal League’s Mid-Winter Conference in Charleston, as well as allowing Kolsun and Myers to attend the Municipal Election Seminar also in Charleston. All parties agreed to both. There was also a memorandum of understanding and operational guidelines to be approved by the city between them and the Mon Forest Towns Partnership which was also approved.
Good of the order consisted of making the council aware that the physical therapy being offered at Wellness 24 is going very well thus far as well as Tucker County Day will be held in Charleston on February 5 at 5 p.m. The next meeting of the Parsons City Council will be Tuesday, February 4 at 6:30 p.m.