By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Jessica Waldo from the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) attended the bi-monthly meeting of the Tucker County Commission to provide their annual report to the panel. Ben Herrick, President of the Tucker County Planning Commission, was also present with the same intentions on behalf of the Tucker County Planning Commission.
Before getting to the agenda items, Commission President Lowell Moore called the meeting to order after the opening prayer by Reverend David Snyder of the Church of God and The Pledge of Allegiance. The minutes from the April 10 meeting and the April 16 levy rate meeting were approved. Waldo provided the CVB annual report. She handed out the booklets of information as she gave an overview of the 2017-18 happenings. “The collection of Hotel/Motel tax was slightly down for 2017, but for the first time in two years 2018 had an increase,” the report stated. “2017 was a year of praise. Pickin’ in Parsons received the International Bluegrass Event of the Year,” Waldo stated as well as noting in 2017, two Hospitality Training Sessions were hosted, the Travelocity Gnome visited the county, and the Boulder Park opened in Davis, along with two new restaurants, including Wicked Wilderness and the Dugout.
Waldo continued, “In 2018, the CVB received the Stars of Almost Heaven award for best new website that we launched January of 2018.” “Thomas City Park trail was opened in the fall of 2018 and an ADA accessible boat launch was installed,” she added. “Priorities for the future would include more off season events, increase mid-week visitation during winter, assist in developing additional activities, dedicated workers and work force housing, and offering additional hospitality training,” the report stated.
She continued detailing the organization board members and staff as well as the advertisement methods being utilized and their trends over the last two years. “Realistically we have lost almost $100,000 in advertising funding,” she said. The report also provided charts of visitor’s center traffic by month, with a 2017 total of 7,746 and a 2018 total of 6,873. Graphs were also included in the report showing the funding coming from the county hotel/motel tax over the last eight years, which contributes to the success and abilities of the CVB. Hotel/Motel tax collected amounts to 6%; half goes to CVB and the other half remains in the county.
Next in audience and guests was Ben Herrick with his annual report. “Over this last year there’s several things we have been working on,” he began. The first item he mentioned was the subdivision ordinance, which he noted those efforts have been “redirected” and will go whichever way the Commissioners wish. The building permit process has been streamlined into one office (The Tucker County Planner) where he dictates what needs to go where. The Planning Commission has played a large role in the multi-purpose building being constructed for the Emergency Service Personnel in Davis as well as endorsing the US Fish and Wildlife new facility. “We worked with West Virginia State Highway on a pedestrian lane going from Davis to Thomas,” Herrick informed. This would be approximately a two mile trail that the Planning Commission is working to revitalize efforts to make this idea a reality.
Next Herrick mentioned the Smart Growth America program, which is a subdivision of the United States Department of Agriculture, whose mission is to help rural communities. As a result of a past, successful initiative with the USDA, they returned to Tucker to ask what else our rural county could benefit from, and the obvious answer was broadband. According to Herrick, our country is a decade behind times when it comes to communication in comparison to countries such as Europe. This becomes a safety hazard in a lot of our areas where cell service is obsolete and a call for help cannot be connected. “It would be a tremendous boom in our county,” he stated. There is currently a survey online at http://bit.ly/tuckerinternet to assist in showing the needs of the county per the residents. A tour with the USDA will be set up in June to see the results and needs within the county which he stated, “I think it’s a great thing and we’re really excited about it.”
“Big Run Pump Hydro Power Project, that I think has died,” he continued. “FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) pulled the permit on there because they could not get the Forest Service to give them permission to do the soil boring in order to do the geological background survey.” “Unfortunately it would be a good thing for the county because it would be some sort of industry here that’s not tourism based, that’s going to be around for a long time, and not only that it helps make all this renewable energy viable,” but Herrick says it doesn’t look promising.
He finished up by informing the Commissioners of the nine members on the board, which he provided a list to County Clerk Sherry Simmons which also contains an ex-official member, currently being filled by Commissioner Patrick Darlington. The budget for this board is minimal and usually contributed mostly to Tucker County Day. The request this year from the County Commission is $4,000, which he feels will carry them through the year. “Thank you, that was very thorough,” stated Moore as Herrick finished.
Under Audience and Guests wishing to speak was Mike Price. He only had one question, which was asking what the Planning Commission had spent on the development of the subdivision ordinance that is no longer up for consideration. “Basically nothing so far,” replied Herrick. He explained the process for doing these types of projects and said, “It’s up to the County Commission how they want to handle it.”
Daniel Geohagan then directed a question to Herrick, “Are you not in correlation with Barbour County, Randolph County, as well with the Development Authority on the development of broadband? Isn’t there a coalition amongst the Development Authorities with that?” Dennis Filler, County Planner, answered Geohagan, stating “The answer is yes, so we have a multi-pronged approach and so the Smart Growth America came up late last year before this other new initiative, so Smart Growth America allows us to take and capture data that we will be able to leverage and use with that other effort.” “We are not in competition, they are actually very cooperative and we marry together to take and give us a much better product.”
Elected Officials Reports were next beginning with Simmons, “We are in the process of updating all the computer systems for the staff in my office, and I have received new computers, printers, and scanners from the 2018-19 grants through History and Archives and that will be placed in our vault area.”
Employees Reports was short with only Joel Goughnour, County Administrator updated the ZMM Architects for the Courthouse Improvement Grants recently visited and are preparing to finish the sprinkler system installation project in the traditional Courthouse. Moore reiterated how necessary this project is with the age of the clock tower portion of the building.
There were no correspondence and one county board appointment of Beverly Cantrell, representative of the LEPC, to serve on the 911 Advisory Board for a three year term. Moore continued into New Business and moved to table the ambulance authority ordinance revisions briefly, which Commissioner Fred Davis agreed. The excise tax was voted upon and passed, which will become effective June 1, 2019. There were no erroneous assessments and payments were approved as presented.
Commissioner Reports were the final item on the agenda, which Moore informed he recently attended the Region VII quarterly meeting and Davis had nothing new to report on since the last meeting. The meeting was then adjourned before announcing the next meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 8 at 9 a.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom. All public are welcome and encouraged to attend.