By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Tucker County Commission started their meeting with Pastor James Snyder opening with a word of prayer followed by The Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Diane Hinkle welcomed everyone and made mention of a challenging week that the town has with cell phone service being obsolete, the upcoming storms, and the closing of Sheetz. “Somebody else is going to move in where Sheetz was and life goes on”, Hinkle stated. Hinkle called the meeting to order followed by approval of the prior meeting and work session minutes.
Audience and guests were addressed first in the meeting, starting with Kimberly Day. She and Tammy Michael work on the committee that plans the social events for Parsons and they are already beginning their Christmas festivities. The committee was requesting permission to utilize the parking garage for vendors to set up to be more centrally located and accessible to patrons during the Christmas happenings. Last year they were set up in the Presbyterian Church and due to being on the outskirts of the majority of activities, there was little to no traffic and vendors aren’t as willing to participate again this year if held in the same location. “Last year we had about eight vendors and this year we have the potential of maybe doubling that if we have a new location”, expressed Day. It was confirmed there were no requests to utilize that facility last year, and this years’ date would be December 8, with the vendors set up from approximately 10 a.m. until time of the parade with a new location. Hinkle and Commissioner Lowell Moore both agreed it shouldn’t be a problem, although it’s not the warmest of options.
Aaron and Celena Myers were next to take the floor as a follow up to the prior meetings’ concern of the dilapidated buildings causing rat and varmint issues in the town of Bretz. “I’d like to thank everybody for letting us be here today, I’d like to thank James (Snyder) for everything he’s done, and I’d like to update everyone on the rat situation”, Aaron Myers began. Thankfully he believes they are calming down as they have seen less carcasses and heard less commotion from them. Myers also stated he believes the clean-up efforts are going some better and yards have been mowed. “I’d like to ask the commission how the ordinance is coming into perspective”, Myers stated, as Hinkle turned it over to James Snyder to respond in regards to a meeting that was held regarding this matter. “Several county entities were represented there”, Snyder said, “the existing county ordinance is not enforceable”, he explained. They are looking at starting over with this and the county planner has several ordinances from surrounding counties they are trying to draft something from. “We are making sure whatever we draft has some bite to it so as to actually enforce it”, Snyder expressed. They are also working with other county agencies to get everyone on board to be able to address these issues quicker and stronger. Another area of concern that was addressed in this meeting was a better form of communication between all county agencies that need to be involved to keep everyone aware of happenings. Snyder gave the example if he would receive a complaint, he would be “cc” (via email) all county commissioners so they are aware of the complaint and the response. Commissioner Patrick Darlington sat down and spoke with Dennis Filler, county planner, regarding how to make this ordinance carry some weight with future offenders, however that meeting had to be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. Hinkle felt this meeting was very successful with having several agencies represented at this meeting, however she expressed her dismay by saying, “It’s sad it took something like this to bring this to life”. Celena Myers mentioned a former letter a neighbor had received requiring clean up on their property back in 2002, however according to Hinkle, that letter was not anymore enforceable than it is today. “That ordinance when it was drafted, it’s a really nice sheet of paper but that’s it”, responded Snyder. The ordinance required there to be several positions to be filled, i.e. medical examiner, engineer, etc. that our county could not fill, therefore it’s not enforceable. “I think we’ve made a good start with the first meeting and we will continue down that path and hopefully a more reasonable ordinance will be put in place”, Hinkle confirmed.
Mr. and Mrs. Myers also requested clarification from Ray LaMora, Prosecuting Attorney regarding a letter they received from him stating they were not to solicit any commissioners, 911, or county employees. “I have to ask my county for help, yet you’re telling me in a letter not to solicit”, stated C. Myers. LaMora responded that, “with your tone of your previous correspondence with the commissioners led me to believe you were looking to start a lawsuit against the county”. He continued, “The information that we received from the association said you were filing a complaint against the county commission, and I do not want the county commissioners or anyone else making a promise to you that is going to create a possibility of litigation.” LaMora went further to say, “Right now the county commission has done nothing wrong and I don’t think anyone has made any promises or anything else but had we not gotten word that you were filing a complaint against the county commission I never would’ve sent that. But once that came out I have to protect the county that’s my job”, LaMora sternly stated. “My complaint to them was to find out who was over the 911 center; I was told it was the county commission, so I told them I wanted to file a complaint. Not over you guys, the 911 center, because I was told you were their bosses”, clarified C. Myers. “That was the misunderstanding”, she added. “Addressing the 911 tape, I did contact Brett and he got me a copy of that, I haven’t had a chance to review it but I know from what his findings were, I don’t think there’s any issues with that”, LaMora added. “The way that I see this is if you need any information directly from the commission dealing with your property, because that’s the only way the county can get in trouble and result in a lawsuit, but if you want to talk about dilapidated houses and dilapidated property ordinance, that’s fine, but any of the issues dealing with the rats, dealing with your property, dealing with 911, I just want all communication to come through me so I know exactly what the commission is responding with, with what questions you have, I know then there’s nothing else out there. That way there’s no chance of a lawsuit against the county, that’s all I want”, was LaMora’s response. “So if I call them, I have a question, I have a complaint, I speak with them and I’m not happy, I can call you?” asked C. Myers. “Yes, you call me so I know exactly what is being said”. “So your letter about soliciting, what is that about?” she asked. LaMora answered, “I don’t want you making requests of them, I don’t want you asking questions…” “What do you mean requests, that’s who I ask for help within my community.” she asked. “Just to make things easy, if you have a request, a question, a concern, call me and I’ll get with the commission” LaMora stated. C. Myers expressed she feels this is all because of hearsay, because she and her husband filed a formal complaint, yet it was not over the county commission or any of the commissioners. Hinkle responded that it’s better to have a paper trail and it needs to go through LaMora since he represents the county. “In regards to the ordinance”, A. Myers stated, “We live in this community. We live in Tucker County. I feel we should be able to go to our commissioners, are you telling me we can’t go to that?” Hinkle informed the Myers family they can always attend the commission meetings as well as the work sessions to get the ordinance updates on their own, they are always public instead of having to go through LaMora. “Am I allowed to contact them and ask questions about the ordinance”, A. Myers asked for clarification. “I would rather if you have a question about the ordinance, call my office, let me know what it is, send them a letter if you want, but I’m going to ask that any response comes through me”, he replied. When questions continued regarding communication issues and call backs were not happening when they were told they would from LaMora’s office to the Myers family, LaMora replied “I have a lot going on in my office I just can’t turn around and make a phone call about something like this on a whim”, he replied. “We are doing everything we can from my office in the very short period I’ve been involved”, LaMora reassured. A slight discussion was then held regarding the burn that was mentioned in the previous commission meeting as to proper controlled burn protocols and whether they were in fact met or not. This is continued to be looked into and LaMora assured the Myers family they would be informed as to what those proper procedures were if they wanted to know.
Joshua Moore requesting information as to how to address people parking vehicles and other items on his personal property and the state right of ways. LaMora referred to a state code regarding how to go about removing them, but he needed time to research the code and relay proper information. Moore conveyed this is an ongoing issue with certain residents in the Bretz community and they continue to move old vehicles and campers around congesting the roadway, neighbors driveways, and even extending down towards Jim Propst’ lots. LaMora replied, “DOH and State Police typically deal with those (state right of ways), so I will get with State Police today and see what they say”. Moore explained, “Department of Highways put stickers on them (the vehicles to be moved) and sent them certified letters stating they had to be moved”. LaMora assured he would be following up them and make sure something will happen. As far as neighbors continuing to park on Moore’s property, LaMora said he would have to look into that. Moore elaborated more on the vehicles that are trespassing on his property are actually being driven illegally as they are not up to state code to be considered road legal and safe. LaMora reassured he would be following up with all the local law enforcement personnel regarding this matter and was asked to keep the commissioners in the loop.
Sherry Simmons proceeded with the elected officials report stating that on September 9 they were able to produce the ballots and they are being sent to the printers. “Changes to voter registration deadline is October 16, and the scheduled delivery of our absentee ballots to be mailed is September 21”, Simmons reported. Early voting is scheduled from October 24 through November 3.
LaMora continued with expressing how busy his office has been with cases. “I know last time I was here I said we were up four times our abuse and neglect cases for our average year, we are up to five times our cases in our average year”, LaMora expressed. “That’s not the kind of report we like to hear”, replied Hinkle. LaMora expressed how well the law enforcement has been doing and said, “Once a few of these things are taken care of, the county is going to be a lot safer”. “Is this the secondary to drug abuse?” questioned Hinkle. “It’s almost 100% methamphetamine related” was his reply. “It’s getting worse in the county and it’s going to continue to get worse for a little bit longer before we start really getting a handle on this.”
Employee reports were to follow beginning with Joe Long, Maintenance Director on the continuation of the gas project for the animal shelter. Long stated they have also been addressing the issues with the elevator in the annex and have replaced the computer board. It was also brought to the attention of the commissioners that there was a water leak in the VA that may have been an ongoing issue that they now hope has been resolved.
Hinkle took a moment to recognize James Snyder with the Health Department and thank him for his dedicated work to the clean-up efforts going on in Bretz. Snyder has several months and numerous hours invested into this project and he feels it is headed in the right direction and assures the board he will continue his work to see this project through.
Brett Ware, 911 Director stated they had been understaffed this week due to three employees attending training in Charleston learning how to do criminal background checks. “We are in storm preparedness mode”, he stated in regards to the impending weather. Ware took a moment to explain what communication resources they had in place pending potential outages and how the responders would still be able to reach out within the community. “I know there is a lot of concern within the community about AT&T being down and we did speak with them and have been assured they have prioritized the repair to the tower, which should be done on or before September 13”, informed Hinkle. Ware added he too had reached out to AT&T and expressed from a first responder side how important it was for service to be restored for their cellular network devices used in case of emergencies.
Kevin White, OEM Director, also expressed a busy few weeks. Along with other county agencies, they have been working on the submission for a grant that several parties have to contribute to. “Stream clean-up is always ongoing and of course we’ve had some meetings for preparations for Run for It”, he briefed. “September is public preparedness month”, White informed. A checklist was submitted to the paper for the community to review to have on hand supplies for up to seventy two hours before needing assistance. A flyer was also sent home with every kid through the school system with this same preparedness information. The OEC call list is continuing to be updated White added before briefing about their assistance to Company 30 where they had some lost hikers. Within the last few weeks, Parsons had two swift water rescues take place, and White feels these issues are starting to become a trend. “It’s great tourism is alive and well but we also need to get our people prepared these type of incidences”, he expressed. White also touched on the Homeland Security forecast and the concerns for the community as well as the preparedness of all staff and volunteers with communication in place. Commissioner Darlington mentioned, “A lot of resources aren’t available until the Governor declares a State of Emergency”, as to which White confirmed. “It’s a team effort”, White replied to Hinkle as she thanked him for his hard work. “I hope the public realizes how important all these entities are working together as a team because that’s what it takes”. White finished up with a photo of a portable unit known as a ZUMRO shelter they are receiving thanks to a grant that can be used for several different circumstances. “That grant was for $92,000, the only thing we have to do is front the money. As soon as we receive it we sign off on it and you get the money back”, he elaborated.
There were no correspondence and there was one county board appointment for Dennis Filler, County Planner to serve on the Development Authority, which was unanimously accepted. Two road names were proposed, the first by Robert Huffman III for Red Barn Lane just off of Laneville Road. The property is owned by the family and it was already mapped out as a roadway, yet remained unnamed due to no residents. They are building a home there now and the road must be named to obtain an address, and the family has requested the name Red Barn Lane because they have red barns. The second request was for Grand View Drive at the end of Dry Fork Road before Rt. 32. The parcel was purchased by Matthew Evans and he has already established a home. 911 have no objections and the motion carried unanimously.
The commission addressed new business starting with Kimberly Day’s request to utilize the parking garage for the vendors during the Christmas festivities and parade. Motion was made and all agreed. Sherry Simmons addressed the holiday meeting schedule as the year draws closer toward the end. “It has always been custom that we schedule just one meeting in November and one meeting in December”, Simmons explained. Since her office has been working diligently with the election scheduling, they felt it would be easier to go ahead and set the dates for those months for November 14 and December the 19, both at 9 a.m. Darlington briefed the panel on the Development Authority’s desire to alter their term expiration date to reflect the fiscal year ending June 30 instead of their current board member terms running on calendar year. Motions were made and carried to approve their request.
Terry Silk presented the 2017 EMS fee expenditure report, beginning by saying, “In 2017 until June 30 of this year, our total receipts were $1,146,805.77”. Silk continued by breaking all of this down to all contributing factors that resulted in this amount, including but not limited to taxes, county contribution, and others. “Our biggest expense was labor with salaries and wages totaling $551,966”, he added. Silk continued to break down their expense report as to where the total amounts were derived from, and stated, “Our basic expenditures for the year were $1,126,617.94”. “Of the $189,850 we received from the EMS ordinance, 88% of that went to salary and wages and 12% towards administration expenses”, he reported. “We appreciate Mr. Silks work on this”, praised Hinkle. Silk furthered his report in regards to the last few months. “Just for general information purposes, July and August and through yesterday, our accounts receivable were $30,903 in July, $30,412 in August. Our expenses in July totaled $60,725, our expenses in August have totaled $75,105. We ended up with three payrolls in the month of August which is unusual. So far this month we’ve received $12,530 with payroll yesterday and what we’ve paid up so far through yesterday a balance of $13,305” Silk elaborated. “My point is we’re getting in a tight situation “ he said concerned.
Hinkle asked Silk, also serving as President of the Building Commission, if he would give a brief update on the status of the proposal for the Emergency Services Support Facility. He reported they discussed all the financing requirements and the time of the year it is, they’ve decided to postpone breaking ground for the facility that will be in Davis until spring. “I think that would be better all the way around”, expressed Silk.
Assessments were reviewed and approved by all followed by review of payments. Hinkle asked LaMora, in light of his report, if they should expect to see a rise in jail bills. “I don’t think so”, replied LaMora, as some who are on the jail bill have been relocated and several individuals who are incarcerated are on house arrest. Following executive session was the commissioners’ report where Darlington updated in reference to the hiring of a new accounting firm for the Parks and Recreation, which he feels will be a positive change. “Tucker County Fair went very well this year”, he said and commended how well the youth done and the community for their support of the kids. Hinkle followed with reporting that she and the other commissioners will be traveling to Charleston to meet with the Finance Chair and State Representatives to address the lack of revenue streams to emergency services and to look at the amusement tax and other options on the windmill tax to try and find additional sources of revenue. “There are still some issues with the landfill up in Davis”, Hinkle added. “There have been some odors that the residents have been experiencing. The landfill had been taking chicken feathers from Moorefield and the landfill had initially asked the plant to pre-treat the feathers prior to shipment. “However, at this point they have stopped accepting shipments from them until they can get some odor control in place”, she added.
The meeting was adjourned at 11 a.m. by Hinkle with all in favor. The next regular county commission meeting will commence at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26. Session will take place in the Tucker County Courthouse court room and is always open to the public.