By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The commissioners came together on the morning of January 9 to kick off 2019 on a positive note. Commission President Lowell Moore welcomed Steve Morrow, the new pastor of the Nazarene Church, to open the meeting with a word of prayer, followed by The Pledge of Allegiance. Moore called the meeting to order followed by the reading of the previous meetings’ minutes from December 19 and January 2 that were unanimously approved.
Audience and guests were addressed, beginning with Stormy Meloy and Rebecca Kencel requesting funding for Special Olympics Winter Games basketball tournament. Kencel stated there are approximately seven people that are planning to participate in the winter sports and eleven for the basketball tournament. “It’s just a good experience”, stated Kencel as she also recognized other entities that have donated to their cause, including Performance Chevy in Elkins and the 4×4 Races. Isaiah Meloy also shared some of his favorite activities that he enjoys while participating in Special Olympics. A packet of information was provided to the commissioners explaining their costs, to which Kencel explained, “Neither the athlete nor the volunteers will incur any costs, everything is covered”. “I commend you on the job you do, it’s a great program and we thank you for that”, Moore stated. “I used to coach and that’s just awesome.”, responded Commissioner Freddy Davis. Commissioner Patrick Darlington stated, “I move that we approve $450 to the Special Olympics”, which passed.
Tim Williamson, part of FreedomWorks LLC, presented the commissioners with a business license issued to their corporation by the State of West Virginia allowing them to open a business within Tucker County. Williamson stated they met with the Forest Service in October to see if they would be willing to support a project such as the hydro pumped storage facility. “The feedback we received was positive although they suggested I very quickly come and talk to the citizens of Tucker County”, stated Williamson, which is his intentions before moving further.
“I’m here to announce that we have gotten extensive comments from the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) permit process and we are intending to talk with you folks here today and get some feedback from the other meeting tonight”, stated Williamson. “We’d like to think that from the conclusion of this that, barring any unforeseen conditions, we would be able to fill out and file a specialty permit by the end of this month”, he continued. The process with FERC has come to a halt due to the government shut down, but will pick back up as soon as an agreement is reached.
This project is a “500 megawatt project that is actually a gigawatt rated power”, he explained. “It will be producing power when the wind is blowing, when the wind is not blowing, and when the sun is shining and when the sun is not shining. The project will have approximately eighty hours of pump storage capacity, so roughly two weeks”, he explained. Williamson provided an updated sketch which provided updated information and wording that was a major concern to the population. He assured that even in a high water breech, the water would never reach the Big Run bog due to the amount of space over the highest point the water would reach. “We believe there to be minimal to no impact to the bog at this time”, he said. “The major impacts are to recreation, to loss of the forest, and potential impacts to flora and fauna. Our studies are calculated to try to understand what the magnitude of that impact is and see if we can mitigate the impact” he assured. “This project we believe will be successful if and only if it has two things. One public support first and foremost and two we have a strategy to mitigate the impacts”. The Forest Service will also be screening their studies before certain permits can be issued. The goal is for a two to three year span for studies followed by a two to three year span for construction.
The elected officials report followed with County Clerk Sherry Simmons stating the need to begin working on budget statements. “The quarterly reports are completed and tomorrow we begin processing the W-2 and all the election data is complete to date”, Simmons reported. She continued, “I am going to speak just briefly because I feel the Big Run Hydro Project is very important for Tucker County. The commission, myself, and the assessor look at our tax base basically daily. We are the second smallest county in the state of West Virginia, and our school systems will greatly benefit from this project. I hope after the public meeting tonight and the meetings to come in the future that it will put all doubts aside so that this project can move forward for the betterment of Tucker County and it’s children and for future generations”, she concluded.
A citizen in the audience responded to Simmons’ comment and neither agreed or disagreed with the project, but expressed concern and the importance of looking far enough into the future and the type and cost of maintenance and upkeep that will be necessary on a project such as this and how that burden will be placed on our future generations. “We are putting, potentially, a maintaining and monitoring burden two hundred years down the line”, he stated. “When you make the argument about our kids, I’m thinking about that, too”, as he requested the commissioners to remember the burden it could put on the future generations when making their decision.
Dustin Luzier, Community Corrections Director, updated the commissioners that they have been working on their new grant proposal. Luzier also requested as the commissioners travel to Charleston for Tucker County Day to continue lobbying for the Community Correction Program to aid in restoring funding back to the level of what it was in 2010.
Joe Long, Director of Maintenance, stated his crew has encountered several issues over the past few months including the elevator malfunction. That issue has since been remedied by the manufacturer. Heat issues have been occuring in the annex and they have been working on correcting those as well. There was a new enclosure constructed at the Animal Shelter to limit the cat’s access to certain areas of the unit. “The water leak at the Senior Center is kind of out of our hands right now, we told them what we needed and they are moving forward on that”, Long reported.
Kevin White, OEM Director, was next to brief the commissioners. “We have had a little activity since my last report two weeks ago, probably the main one was last Friday”, he began. “It was reported there were three abandoned buckets sealed setting along the stream at Hile Run”, he explained. The WV DEP and WV DNR were contacted and he worked alongside them to remove the buckets appropriately. There was an unknown substance in the containers that one person was exposed to. The substance turned out to probably be human waste. “That’s the type of stuff we deal with from time to time”, he explained. White stated with the impending weather and tourism up and going strong in the county the Fire Department and first responders are on standby to assist when and if necessary.
County Planner Dennis Filler announced he had set up a county email address than can be utilized to receive comments and concerns from the citizens on county related matters, such as the hydro storage project. That email is TuckerCountyComments@gmail.com and anyone is welcome to submit an email and they will be distributed to the proper authorities depending on the topics.
There were no correspondences, but there were several county board appointments. Wayne Smith and Daniel Dilly were up for reappointment within the Tucker County Development Authority, and Robby McClung as a new appointment. All three were unanimously approved and will serve a three year term which begins January 1. There were also no road names to discuss or erroneous assessments at this time
Payments were reviewed by the commissioners and approved followed by the commissioner’s reports. Darlington began with stating, “It’s been kind of quiet with Christmas and New Year’s, but I’d like to welcome Freddy to the commission and look forward to working with him”. They will be traveling to Charleston in the near future to attend meetings and work with the legislature as well as attending Tucker County Day on Wednesday. “I’ve talked to several other counties in the state and Tucker County always has the strongest, best showing of any day at the capital and we’re always commended on what we bring to the capital, the presentation we put on in Charleston, and what we do there”, he commented. “It’s a great opportunity to let our voice be heard in Charleston”.
Davis reported he is working with the Animal Shelter doing interviews for an animal control officer and requested the other commissioners, Goughnour, and Simmons continue to help him learn his new role and he is excited to take on his new position and work alongside the crew.
Moore also welcomed Davis to the board and reiterated some of the statements Darlington made about the upcoming Tucker County Day in Charleston and encouraged anyone who can attend to please do so. Some of the topics they plan to address while there are the taxation on the windmills and an easement tax on entertainment. “Kevin uses the term we work in Tucker County as a team and to get things done you have to work as a team and I think Tucker County does a good job of that”, Moore agreed.
There was no need for an executive session at this meeting, therefore Darlington moved for adjournment. The next meeting of the Tucker County Commission will be Wednesday, January 23 at 4 p.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Court Room. The public is welcome to attend and a calendar of events can be found at www.tuckercountycommission.com