By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Ben Herrick, chairman of the Tucker County Planning Commission, appeared before the Tucker County Commissioners to offer an annual report as part of the legislative requirements. He shared some of the challenges that came along with the Coronavirus pandemic. He thanked everyone involved with how the vaccination clinics and everything has been handled since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The other organization that I specifically wanted to address and thank as part of this meeting is The Parsons Advocate,” Herrick continued. He acknowledged several communities, especially small, rural areas, have lost their local media and news coverage and attested that Tucker County is fortunate to still have that.
Herrick shifted gears to speak of the Hyperloop, stating they have received a couple of engineering documents on the future facility. “The thing they’re building now is just a very short stretch, it’s not even going to get the Hyperloop close to full speed,” he explained. The minimum trip is approximately 200 kilometers (about 124 miles). He stated a lot of research is still needed on the project, but the research facility is set to begin construction towards the end of 2021. “There’s a chance this may be something to revolutionize transportation,” he said.
The Planning Commission conference was held via ZOOM this year where Tucker County requested broadband communication capabilities. Contacts have been made with different companies where a plan is being developed to take back to the United States Department of Agriculture to request funding for this infrastructure.
A comprehensive plan based on the 2010 census has been developed with the expectation of a new one to be compiled in the near future with the new census results. “The whole nature of the county is changing, where before, 10 years ago, the complaint was there’s no work around here, there’s nothing to do, and now there are employers,” Herrick confirmed.
He touched slightly on the subdivision ordinance that was proposed once before but was not well received within the county. The Planning Commission is now working to devise a development guideline that would ensure any large-scale development is implemented, that the proper infrastructure is in place for proper support of that area. Herrick said, “Right now, especially up on the mountain, there’s a shortage of sewage,” which he suggested is hampering growth within the county. The report continued by reviewing the demographic changes, resources, transportation infrastructure, workforce housing, business, government activities, and membership.
Herrick concluded with the financial status of the Planning Commission, which is solely a volunteer organization resulting in a minimum budget. “We’ve got about $5,000 in the bank,” he announced to the Commissioners. “We’re thinking we probably need about $4,000 from the County Commission for the coming year,” he added.
Terry Silk, Director of the Tucker County Ambulance Authority, provided a financial update for January 2021. At the end of that month, the income was listed as $113,117.76 with total expenses of $78,287.05. Year-to-date totals for income are $623,021.28 and expenses came to $566,956.40. Commission President Mike Rosenau asked about the status of the wrecked ambulance, which Silk stated communication is still ongoing with FEMA, though it appears very little funding will be received to go towards the purchase of a new unit.
Mike Moore from the Tucker Community Foundation submitted a funding request for $5,000 to go towards the 2021 Run For It event. “This year we are planning to do an in-person event, it’s scheduled for September 25,” Moore announced. This event is an economic simulation for all businesses in the area.
“Since 2009, the County Commission has given us $55,000 and we have put back into the non-profit organizations in Tucker County $1,052,000,” Moore stated. All funds provided by the Commission are designated to stay within the confines of Tucker County. Commissioner Lowell Moore made a motion to approve their request of $5,000 with unanimous agreement.
R.J. Hovatter and Sam Rich with Thrasher Engineering attended to present the Commissioners with their vision of what Corridor H may bring to the county. Attempts are being made to secure funding to perform a Corridor H study on the matter.
“We do a lot of this type of work that looks at planning from a regional perspective,” explained Rich. With the Corridor approximately 80% complete, one can see what changes have come along with that amenity. Hovatter expressed respect to keep the aesthetics and identity of Tucker County as the economic growth transpires. “It’s really just about being prepared and going through that due diligence to figure out how we capture this economic opportunity that’s coming,” added Rich.
Future potential development sites would be identified along with infrastructure research. The comprehensive plan that was developed by Herrick and the Planning Commission has been reviewed by Thrasher and falls in line with their goals and intentions to prepare for what is to come. Examples were provided of similar projects they have been involved with and how they relate to what Thrasher is proposing for Tucker County.
In terms of costs, Rich listed several grant resources that are available to different organizations that can be sought depending which group takes on the project. He also explained that the project would have to go out for bid and Thrasher Engineering may or may not be the lead on the project, though they are taking interest in the communities and are helping spread awareness of potential opportunities.
The minutes from February 10, 2021, were approved as presented with a motion from Commissioner Fred Davis and all in favor. Employee Reports began when County Administrator Sheila DeVilder stated that the security system update is nearly complete with panic buttons being installed in various locations and the elevator has undergone needed upgrades. Rosenau asked if the panic buttons were in the Courthouse building, which she explained could be an add-on service at a later date.
Director for the 911, Beverly Cantrell, has been in contact with Micrologic, who is waiting on the weather to permit work to begin on the new microwave tower construction. Her staff is continuing to be monitored upon arrival at work and they are assisting with the weekly Covid-19 vaccination clinics.
Kevin White, Director for the Office of Emergency Management, began by stating, “We have about 2,880 vaccinated so far, that’s about 40 to 41% of our community.” As of Sunday, Tucker County leads the state on the percentage of residents vaccinated. He and Cantrell are collaborating on a grant effort for the 911 center to upgrade the security features that White is hopeful to receive.
Bailey Falls, Tucker County Animal Shelter, submitted the spay and neuter grant to the W.Va. Department of Agriculture on February 1 which is under review. Another grant was submitted for COVID Relief funds which could result in up to $15,000 between the two if successful. The shelter has been working with Dr. Pritt who has performed over 20 surgeries on cats and dogs in just three days.
February resulted in 42 animal intakes with 16 cats that were vaccinated, altered, and returned to their colonies, two-owner reclaims, six adoptions, and 11 transports to rescue partners. Falls is participating in free training to continue her education for managing the shelter and is in contact with the WVDA working with offering additional vaccinations during clinics.
Christopher Davis submitted an application to become a member on the Ambulance Authority Board, which would be a three year term. Davis made a motion to approve the application with Rosenau and Moore in favor.
There were two erroneous assessments that the Commissioners approved. Payments were thoroughly reviewed and a motion was made to approve by Davis with all in favor.
Moore didn’t have a Commissioner Report to offer at this time. Davis recognized several positive aspects going on within Tucker County with Rosenau confirming, “Tucker County’s a great place to live.”
This concluded the business of the Tucker County Commission who will meet again on Wednesday, March 10 at 9 a.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.