By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Annual Reports and Resolutions are what made up a large portion of the most recent Tucker County Commission meeting.
After the Morning Prayer by Reverend Greg Smith and The Pledge of Allegiance, Commission President Lowell Moore called the meeting to order. Following the approval of the previous meetings minutes, Moore began by addressing Steve Leyh under Audience and Guests on the agenda. Leyh is with the Tucker County Development Authority, an all volunteer based extension of county government currently consisting of fifteen members. His goal for the meeting was to update the commissioners on some of the economical development happenings that have been going on recently in the county, as well as some areas of address. “We have reached the lowest unemployment rate in eighteen years in the county,” he stated at 4.9%, below the 5.1% state average. “The estimated median household income in Tucker County continues to climb, we’re right around $39,000” he continued, though we still rank well below the state average. Leyh informed we are currently ranked fourth in highest growth within counties with new businesses. “Tucker County had four hundred and two business entities in January of 2018, we’ve added seventy-one new business entities in the last eighteen months, and we lost twenty-one,” he said. Leyh shifted gears to projects the authority has been working on.
Canaan hosted an economic development gathering in the fall of 2018 which Leyh assisted in forming collaborations with other developers to help push Tucker County forward. Along with the Chamber of Commerce, the Development Authority co-coordinated Tucker County Day at the Legislature in Charleston and was pleased of the passing of Senate Bill 28 removing the cap on hotel/motel funds. This bill included literature to allow economic development access to the county money with a cap of $200,000 for projects.
Work has been ongoing with the Davis Center, sitting on DNR property, with attempts to revamp the parcel as well as cooperation with the Corridor H Authority to complete the highway project. “The Development Authority owns property along Corridor H outside of Davis,” Leyh commented. “We’ve been really active trying to figure out that portion of it.” A $20,000 grant was applied for along with another $5,000 contribution by the Authority allowing them to devise a six month master plan on how best to utilize the land and business aspects, such as workforce housing.
Leyh began discussing the major issue of broadband access. This infrastructure is being looked at diligently to bring quality internet access to some of the most rural parts of the county. He thanked the county for their continued support as he made note that the Authority’s budget has been drastically decreased. “We are operating very efficiently but we are still operating at a loss,” he implied. Reserves are being accessed on a more regular basis to make up for this deficit. Because of this, Leyh requests when analyzing budgets that the Commissioners keep that in mind.
There were resolutions on the agenda that Leyh continued discussing with the group. The first was the Support of Joint Development Entity (ReConnect Broadband Pilot Program) and the second supporting the broadband project. There are still many steps that must be taken to get to this high speed internet access as well as a couple years timeframe, but the Development Authority is headed in the right direction. All Commissioners unanimously agreed to adopt these resolutions and support these projects.
Nancy Moore and Ivonne Martinez with the county libraries presented their annual report, but not before Moore was congratulated on her recent award of Librarian of the Year. “We just want to give special thanks, you work as a team,” commended L. Moore. N. Moore continued with her business matter, stating “Total county population served is 7141,” she stated. Moore highlighted the services and programs offered and technology accessible for public use at Five Rivers while Martinez contributed the data from Mountaintop. They provided data to the Commissioners regarding their usages over the past year as well. “We thank you for your past support of libraries,” she said and expressed how the county funds are used and opens up more funding access. Moore’s request for the next fiscal year is $12,000 for each library as part of the county contribution. “We just want to thank you for the service you do for our county and the people, we will consider your request,” L. Moore stated.
Elected Official’s Report followed, presented by County Clerk Sherry Simmons. She reported an opportunity to enter into a pilot project to digitize the minutes and recordings, stating “It’ll be able to provide us the capability of having minutes almost immediately after the meeting.” At this time this pilot project does not have a fee associated with it and can be utilized for sixty days to determine if it fits the need of the commission. Moore took a moment to share a praise he received from an individual from another county on how well Tucker County Clerk’s office works in our county, to which Simmons added the Professor of Surveying from Fairmont State University, actually utilizes our county’s website as teaching components to his students.
Moving onto Employee Report, Moore provided the report of Maintenance Director Joe Long. Community Corrections is expanding and Maintenance is working to facilitate new office space in the upstairs portion of their building. County Administrator Joel Goughnour announced the BFS open applications and interviews that were to be held Friday, March 15. Simmons chimed in making note of the buildings of PRO (Parsons Revitalization Organization on Trac) receiving canopies and work they are doing.
Director of 911 Brett Ware took the floor updating the status of the new system they have been working diligently on for the last couple months. “Everything is working smoothly,” working out a few kinks along the way. “The employees are super ecstatic to have it,” he continued while giving examples of the benefits it is providing so quickly. Ware recently had an employee return from the WV State Police Academy to complete required training with another employee doing the same next week. Ware briefed there has been some questions regarding the 911 phone system, which he reported in the last six months there had been four 911 phone outages that were not related to equipment, but the copper lines provided by Frontier. A formal complaint has been filed with the Public Service Commission regarding this matter. “When our 911 center goes down, your calls will be relayed to another 911 center,” which Ware stated is usually Preston County. During the most recent outage in early February, both cell phones and landlines were out and 911 could not be reached. Ware is working hard on this matter and looking at alternative means.
OEM Director Kevin White updated that he attended a meeting in Charleston where a pilot program was discussed regarding stream cleaning. This work would take place prior to a natural disaster versus after to aid in preventative measures. Dilapidated properties were also brought up during this meeting with a pilot project in review to address these issues in our counties. White stated emergency responders assisted in a kayak accident on the Randolph/Tucker county line as well as a recovery of what was thought to be a body, but turned out to be a mannequin. A new firefighter one class is underway and White hopes to gain several new firefighters from the graduates.
Dennis Filler, County Planner, opened his report stating, “For those of you who don’t know, the Pump Storage Hydro is on hold.” FreedomWorks LLC has written to state officials for support to get this project back up and running. The Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance had its first officials meeting on March 7; however, there was no attendance. The next meeting will happen at 6 p.m. March 28 at the Tucker County Courtroom with the public meeting April 17 at 6 p.m., also at the Courtroom. At the Commission meeting on April 24, the ordinance can be adopted with enforcement beginning May 1.
This meeting had no correspondences, but boasted one county board appointment of Brent Easton to the Planning Commission. Moore then read a portion of a proclamation declaring March as American Red Cross Month, 2019 with unanimous approval. Commissioner Fred Davis made a motion to approve the Hamrick PSD draw, and the motion carried. Also under New Business was a memorandum of understanding with the Community Correction Program, which Commissioner Patrick Darlington read. This agreement was between the County Commission and Community Correction to establish a Day Report Center in Tucker County. “The Day Report Center will provide rehabilitative services to non-violent offenders residing within Tucker County that have been given the option of alternative sentencing,” Darlington read. “This is a great service to the offenders and I support that highly,” proclaimed Moore. The agreement of understanding passed with unanimous support. “He does a great thing with what he’s doing,” added Davis.
There were no erroneous assessments this meeting so the Commissioners reviewed the payments with approval. Commissioner Reports followed beginning with Moore briefing about a meeting he and Filler attended in Buckhannon to approve the Region Seven fees for GIS services. This amounts to a $0.15 increase per capita county wide. Darlington began his report stating Parks and Recreation is still working on the completion of the building at Camp Kidd. He also commented about the talk going around regarding the Big Mountain Run (BMR) and offered clarification. “We’ve sent them (BMR) an email trying to address their concerns and let them know that we’re willing to try and work with them,” though there has been no response as of yet. “The ball is in their court,” he added. Darlington also announced the Holly Meadows Golf Course will be opening their greens on April 1 for the 2019 golfing season. Davis updated with the landfill recent happenings, stating they have relocated their recyclables storage location. He said a lot of labor for sorting these materials will be provided from The Rubenstein Center and the Community Corrections Program which will assist in costs. Davis also noted there are some recyclables the landfill isn’t able to send to its former destination; therefore it is still ending up in the landfill. He will brief his fellow commissioners which items these are after the next Solid Waste Authority meeting.
There was no need for an executive session at this time, therefore Moore thanked everyone for attending and adjourned the meeting. The next gathering of the Tucker County Commission will be March 27 at 4 p.m. and as always, the public is welcome to attend.