By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Emily Wilson-Hauger came before the Tucker County Commissioners as a representative from the Woodlands Development Group and Woodlands Community Lenders to offer an annual report highlighting projects that are on the group’s priority list. “We are a non-profit community development corporation and community lenders,” she explained. Within the development side of operations, they focus on housing development, downtown redevelopment work, community facilities development, and community planning efforts. The lending side works with small business development and alternative financing options without competing with the banks.
Some of the current projects include workforce housing, which she stated, “I think most of the county agrees it’s really in crisis right now,” said Hauger. Calls are coming in weekly from residents in need of workforce housing who are being displaced due to the lack of availability. She said the Development Authority has agreed to devote part of the land within the Industrial Park to workforce housing as well as Cortland Acres, which the Woodland Group is working to assist where they can.
“We have an eight-unit townhouse project under construction in Davis right now,” continued Hauger, which is expected to be finished in Spring and available for lease. Woodlands is working with the building owner of Charlotte’s Thrift Store with hopes of acquiring the building to build another multi-use structure on that lot. “The City is hoping to provide parking then with the lot they had purchased,” she explained.
Woodlands also has an interest in the Board of Education building (the former school) as the BOE does not wish to own the structure. Communication is ongoing to find a reuse plan for that building, which preliminarily could include maintaining offices for those who currently use the building on the first floor with housing options on the second floor.
Funding is in the work for housing to begin construction in the Thomas area, too. “I continue to support the Thomas Park re-development program as much as I can,” she said, and helped secure grant funds for that but now is working to come up with the 20% grant match. Thomas and Davis are working towards comprehensive plans much like the county has to prepare for the incoming changes and preserve the quality of life and aesthetics of the municipalities.
Commission President Mike Rosenau asked if the Woodlands Group could help in any way with the revamping of the stage area at Camp Kidd and provide bleachers. Hauger responded that it would be considered a community facility and would qualify for grants that are available for outdoor music venues since it is used for that purpose.
In 2012, the Woodlands Group began offering lending opportunities, in which time they have closed on 40 small business loans in the amount of approximately $1.4 million. Low interest relief and recovery loans are included in their services for businesses affected by Covid.
“We are still working with a lot of private, downtown building owners to give them technical assistance,” Hauger continued, which includes technical assistance with architectural help and fire code analysis to help redo some of the buildings. These loans and redevelopment assistance has contributed to about 70,000 square feet of business space within the county along with 18 new businesses, and more than 50 new jobs.
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved with a motion from Moore and all in favor. Maintenance Director Joe Long and his crew have been busy with routine maintenance and snow removal. Advantage Technology began Monday installing the new security system and the shelving units are prepared to begin installation. They performed the preparations needed to install the new electronic sign that has now been erected.
County Administrator Sheila DeVilder expanded on the new sign that was purchased through the CARES Act funds that has a primary use is to share Covid related information. She is participating in training in the coming days that will assist in better use and utilization for the sign. DeVilder is working to receive money back for the county from FEMA relating to the virus for supplies and first responders where the Governor’s Office has halted assistance.
Beverly Cantrell, Director of 911, is continuing to monitor her staff’s temperatures and symptoms as they arrive for shift. Disinfecting is ongoing daily and the fogging is going on weekly throughout the entire building. Cantrell and available staff are assisting with the vaccine clinics that are going on weekly.
Kevin White, Office of Emergency Management Director, reported inclement weather has delayed the stream cleanup efforts, therefore those workers are assisting the City with snow removal efforts. Three vaccine clinics have been conducted thus far with a drive thru method being utilized at the Company 10 Fire Department. Anyone wishing to volunteer help during these clinics can contact White or the Tucker County Health Department to find out how you can help. “We know that we can do, from last week, we can do 42 shots in 32 minutes,” said White, but the goal is to 60 in an hour with four minutes between groups and a 15 minute waiting period. Commissioner Moore took his wife through the most recent clinic and stated, “It’s state of the art, I don’t think you could have a better system.” Commissioner Fred Davis, participating via speaker phone, told White he has been approached by individuals on Route 72 who commended the workers on the stream clean up efforts in that area.
Bailey Falls, Director of the Tucker County Animal Shelter, recently submitted a grant application to the W.Va. Department of Agriculture for $10,000 to go towards thei spay, neuter, and vaccinate program. This would allow approximately 250 animals to receive these needed interventions. Mileage reimbursement was also requested with the lack of a vet within Tucker County and the multiple trips being made to their clinics out of town. More grants are being applied for to offset the expenses encountered for the shelter. Falls and her board are working diligently to provide a draft of updates being proposed to the animal care ordinance. Rosenau thanked Falls for going for the funding opportunities especially those beyond the local level.
A request was made to use the county parking lot for the Fireman’s Fair May 15 through the 23. Moore made the motion to approve the request with hopes the fair can be held this year with Rosenau and Davis in unanimous agreement.
Rosenau read a memorandum of understanding between the county and Community Corrections which is an annual occurrence to establish and maintain the Day Report Center. Moore made the motion with all in favor.
It was suggested to hire Michele Bolyard to handle building permits submitted to the county, formerly a task carried out by the County Planner. Since the retirement of Dennis Filler from that position, Assessor Chris Michael has been temporarily covering for that position and expressed he would be happy to help Bolyard until she becomes familiar with the process. All Commissioners voted in favor of hiring Bolyard into this position.
First and final waivers for completed estates were presented for approval, which was done with a motion by Davis and Moore and Rosenau in agreement. There were no erroneous assessments and the payments were approved as presented with a motion from Moore.
Rosenau provided a brief commissioner’s report stating he has been attending several board meetings over the course of the last few weeks and is working to learn the financials and budgets of the Commission. The boards bi-laws have been a priority focus for him and is ensuring all agendas are being posted three days prior to the meeting as per state code. County Clerk Sherry Simmons stated she participated in a ZOOM meeting recently where she learned the workers compensation premiums are down 13% this year thanks to the quality employees within the county.
This concluded the meeting for the Tucker County Commission with their next appointed time on Wednesday, February 24, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom which is limited to a maximum capacity of 25 individuals and facemasks are required.