By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Commissioner Fred Davis invited General Manager of Perfect North Slopes Jonathan Davis, along with Daniel “Booney” Neff, General Manager of Timberline Mountain, and Tom Price, Director of Operations at Timberline Mountain to the County Commission meeting. “I couldn’t be more excited to be in West Virginia,” Davis began. “In fact, my home base is in Indiana, both of these guys have roots back there, but I have to go back and these guys get to live here full time,” he laughed.
Davis stated that to date, everyone has been great to work with and they have enjoyed getting to know the area and the local residents. “They’ve made us feel like family,” he said, which is the lifestyle of the company they reign from. Full time staff is being developed at Timberline which is a combination of individuals from Indiana along with locals from Tucker County. Additional full time staff is being sought with a large need of seasonal employees.
Commissioner Davis told the Timberline representatives that he is working with others to incorporate a local shuttle service that would help provide the 350 needed seasonal workers to Timberline. In Indiana, about 60% of the employees are high school age youth, which Davis stated not only do they look at it as a first job option for them, but also an opportunity to incorporate life skills.
Ski patrol training is kicking off early October. Davis has been working with 911 Director Beverly Cantrell on ensuring safety on the mountain. In the instance the chairlifts are not operable in time; Davis has been in contact with Canaan Valley whom has agreed to allow the training to take place at their facility. “We don’t view Canaan as a source of competition, I think that the two of us can exist in the valley and I really hope that the two of us being here will be able to draw more people to Tucker County especially from out of state to bring those tax dollars in, more than one area in the valley could,” Davis added.
In July, Timberline kicked off their season pass sales, which Davis felt yielded a positive response, however there is little to no data to compare the sales to. The results so far have indicated over a quarter of the pass holders are coming from Virginia and approximately 65% who bought were from out of state. The goal is to open the mountain around Thanksgiving, should the weather cooperate.
Neff touched base on the chairlift issues after purchasing the ski resort which led to a large investment being made on the installation of the first six pack detachable lift in West Virginia. The lift is currently 75% complete with contractors from Harman performing much of the work. “We’re also putting in a four person fixed grip to Mid-Mountain,” Neff explained. The former lift used to have a midway unload point before continuing to the mountain top, however these are now two separate lifts.
Snow making improvements have also been done, this includes the installation of over 70 new fan guns. Approximately 80% of the concrete bases have been completed, with Neff stating, “It’s a big improvement.”
Price took over to highlight the improvements being made to the lodge including efficiency and COVID-19 safety protocol. A new, one level deck has been constructed along with rejoining the cafeteria and a lot of reorganizing. The rental shop boasts 1,000 sets of skis and 250 snowboards as well.
Davis stated that between Neff and Price, there is over 25 years of experience in the ski industry. Over $13 million has been put into the Timberline Mountain project from the Perfect Family in order to get the resort back up to par. “We’re not going to have all of our wants, we will have our needs,” Davis stated by the time of their seasonal opening. The goal for the summer is to incorporate mountain biking in an attempt to draw people to the valley year around.
Commission President Lowell Moore thanked them for coming to the meeting and sharing the exciting updates. “On behalf of the County Commission, we really appreciate you fellows for coming to Tucker County.” Commissioner Jon Bush stated he feels they will be a great addition to the area and said, “We’re really looking forward to it.”
County Administrator Sheila DeVilder provided an update from Maintenance Director Joe Long stating that he has spoken to Wilson Restoration who intends to begin the final step in completing the Courthouse brick restoration project after Labor Day. To date, DeVilder has applied for and received between $10 and $15,000 from the CARES Act with the last application submitted totaling nearly $600,000. The Courthouse Security Grant deadline has passed which DeVilder hopes to hear back from soon.
Beverly Cantrell, 911 Director, stated, “All of my new employees are doing really well, they’re catching on quickly and I’m very pleased with that.” The IT Company will be in the facility in early September to complete their project once the final piece of equipment comes in.
Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora read a prepared statement pertaining to open meetings. He began by stating that even though the times being experienced by everyone are unusual, “A pandemic does not relieve any governmental organization of this obligation to be open about meetings and votes.” He said that it has come to their attention that it is believed some organizations are operating outside of these requirements, and, “The Commission wants to remind all public organizations that any gatherings in which public business is going to be discussed, official action is going to be taken, or decisions are going to be made, must be properly noticed and public given the availability to participate.” This also includes virtual platforms utilized for these meetings. The document LaMora continued to read also stated that, “The West Virginia Legislature has created specific rules addressing these issues, even creating criminal penalties for those who knowingly and intentionally thwart these rules.” Minutes must be taken during the meetings and those minutes must be made available to the public within a timely manner.
LaMora also acknowledged a successful seizure of 25 marijuana plants by local law enforcement. “We will be serving arrest warrants for the cultivations,” he said. Several trials are on the schedule along with numerous hearings within the magistrate and circuit courts.
A letter was received relating to the Tucker County Cultural District, which is the only one within the state. The members that are appointed by the commission must then go before the Governor for approval. Those currently sitting on that board are Jessica Waldo, Tim Turner, Brad Moore, Emily Wilson-Hauger, Savannah Hull Wilkins, Cory Chase, and Lowell Moore.
A request to approve Steven Sponaugle to represent the city of Parsons on the Tucker County Development Authority was heard. Davis made a motion to approve with all in agreement. Moore also made a motion to approve Dennis Filler to be reinstated to the Tucker County EMS Authority Board along with Terry Gsell. Both Filler and Gsell will serve a three year term in their positions.
Moore read a proposal from MicroLogic that expresses their desire to construct a tower on the city of Parsons property near the water tower. “The Tucker County 911 Center will sign a five year contract for private network connectivity from the 911 to the state communication tower in Tucker County,” said Moore. There will be a $500 per month charge though there will not be an installation fee. “I think that is a win win for us,” Moore said. “The city has agreed to put it up there at the water tower and that is something Beverly has worked towards.” Moore made the motion to approve the agreement with all in agreement. Davis asked what the timeline looked like to begin using this technology and not rely on the phone lines, to which Cantrell responded she was not given a date, there are a few towers in the queue ahead of them, though being a 911 facility may move their project through quicker.
Jessica Waldo with the Convention and Visitors Bureau provided the annual report for review, though no action was required. Moore then moved to go into executive session to discuss personnel. Upon returning, he announced no decisions were made.
An out of state traveling policy was recommended to the county if an incident occurs with an individual traveling and coming into contact with COVID-19. “Hopefully we never need it,” said Moore with LaMora explaining it is recommended to pass in the occurrence of exposure. Moore made the motion to approve with all in favor.
Moore regretfully announced that a letter of resignation has been submitted from the litter control officer and county planner, Dennis Filler. He moved to accept the resignation, effective August 31, with all in favor. “I really hate to lose him,” he added.
Two erroneous assessments were approved after review from LaMora. Davis made a motion to approve the payments as presented. LaMora also explained that a change has recently been made that states once an individual has been convicted of a felony charge and has been in custody for an extended period of time, the Department of Correction is believed to take over payments upon sentencing and reimbursements should be made to the counties.
Moore began the commissioner’s reports with extending sincere gratitude to Joe Long, Benny Kisamore, and Dennis Filler for their diligence on the phone system change from Frontier to Atlantic Broadband.
Davis elaborated on the transportation needs he is working to address within the county. He has visited locations throughout the Canaan Valley area to determine the needs of employment in that area of the county. He also added that the landfill is prospering and the cleanup taking place has really enhanced the appearance. Davis also acknowledged the Courthouse workers for their dedication to taking care of the facility.
Bush concluded the reports beginning, “I’m just glad to be back on my feet,” as he completed his transplant surgery recently. He thanked the Timberline representatives and agreed that the high school age students could be a huge asset to the employment needs. “The shuttle idea is a great idea and it’s very doable,” Bush added, especially for returning the workers home after their shift if they could utilize the school buses to report to work.
The next meeting will be Wednesday, September 9 at 9 a.m. at the Courthouse. Masks are required.