By Kelly Stadelman
For The Parsons Advocate
While the city of Thomas is one step closer to demolishing more than a dozen abandoned and dilapidated structures, it is looking to build up committees that have been inactive for several years.
“The city is actively looking for volunteers to serve on the Parks & Recreation, Cemetery, Mountaineer Days, and New Historic Thomas committees,” said Mayor Jody Flanagan. “If you are interested, please contact city hall, 304-463-4360, or drop off a letter.”
Recorder Kimberly Trathen said she had been approached by several individuals who expressed interest in serving on the city’s parks and recreation board.
“These people are interested in making sure the trails are kept up, and the trash is picked up,” she said. “There are a lot of good ideas and money to be found, and we need to have people who want to be actively involved.”
Flanagan noted that hikers and bikers frequently use the trails in the park.
“One my ideas is, where the Laurel is in there by the pavilion, is to put more picnic areas,” he said. “Put in four or five of those there so you can utilize the area along the river.”
Trathen said the committee will need to be forward-thinking about protecting the city park so everyone can enjoy it now and into the future.
“That park is a micro-ecosystem of this whole county,” she said. “The amount of plant, fungal, and flower species that are in there need to be protected.”
Council member Erika Smith added, “Since the committee and others have been dormant, I feel like we have the opportunity to appoint new people to the committees who are interested.”
During the Jan. 17 regular council meeting, members unanimously passed a new city ordinance establishing minimum maintenance standards for buildings. Members voting in favor of the ordinance include Recorder Trathen and council members Christine Kozan, Janice Mullenax, Charlie Davis, and Smith. Council member Junior Davis was absent.
The ordinance establishes minimum requirements for the maintenance of existing building structures. It contains mechanical, fire protection regulations, site conditions, and more to ensure homes and businesses stay strong and secure.
Flanagan said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced in October 2022 the city was awarded $250,000 to remove abandoned and dilapidated structures.
“We are one of 21 cities in the state of West Virginia to get this grant,” he said. “This is a pilot program, and if we do a good job with it, we may receive other monies.”
For the grant application, Flanagan worked with Emily Wilson-Hauger of Woodlands Development and put together more than a dozen properties that qualified for the grant.
“We had to redo what Emily did 10 years ago for the city,” Flanagan said. “We went around, took updated photos of all the properties, and put together descriptions. I called every single one of these property owners. They had to write letters saying that the city was allowed to tear down the structure. The good thing about this program is they keep their land.”
The grant also allows the city to pay for asbestos abatement.
“As soon as we get this ordinance passed, all those abandoned and dilapidated structures will be gone,” he said. “Region 7 will administer the grant and take care of the bid process. It will probably be issued in March or April.”
In other business:
– Council members are reassessing the city’s Garbage ordinance for residents and businesses. The current ordinance is dated 2007, the last time rates changed.
Flanagan asked city accountant Mark Joseph to conduct a financial review of the Garbage account for the past two years.
“We are starting the review of the garbage ordinance and fees,” Flanagan said. “We are just in a discussion right now about the ordinance, and until we get some numbers.”
– Flanagan informed the council that he spoke with the engineers at CEC, Inc., the firm the city of Thomas hired to complete an inflow and infiltration study on the sewer system. The company completed smoke testing of the city’s sewage system in the fall and is finishing up the inflow study.
“They will be providing a full report to the city in the next couple of weeks,” Flanagan said.
– Council members voted unanimously to accept a bid from Chips Networking to build a website for the city of Thomas pending collecting additional information about setting up a bill pay option for residents.
– Council also voted unanimously to move forward with acquiring a state purchasing card from the West Virginia Auditor’s office.