Commission Approves Hospital to Apply for USDA Expansion Loan
The Pocahontas County Commission authorized Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan to expand their facility at their March 3rd meeting. The commissioners made it clear that their decision to allow PMH to submit the loan application does not commit the county to anything but allows the USDA to study the application, the hospital’s financial ability to make loan payments, to determine if a loan can be offered and if so, the appropriate amount of the loan that the hospital can repay. Commissioner Walt Helmick summed this up by saying “we can use the USDA’s analysis and underwriting figures to decide (if we should) continue and sign the loan or not…to look at the feasibility of the loan.”
The commissioners also discussed the proposed site of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is the mine safety training facility which is moving from Western Pennsylvania. Jean Bell, a resident of Mingo, whose lives very close to the proposed underground facility addressed community concerns about the project. She pointed out some disturbing problems she found after reading the government’s environmental impact statement, including the following:
- The danger that there will be both short-term and long-term negative effects on residents’ wells and springs
- The above ground fire suppression burns may release carcinogenic chemicals into the ground water
- Blasting at the site may change the course of underground water flows, causing wells and springs to dry up.
- The dangers of building this in karst topography
- The dangers of having this facility located so close to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline -about one and a half miles away.
- That the increased truck traffic in the area both during construction and afterword during routine operations of the facility will hurt tourism, especially making if very difficult for tourists to drive to the Snowshoe Mountain Resort, and that this will be critically bad during simultaneous pipeline construction.
- The lack of adequate study of the existing wells, springs and caves during the environmental impact statement preparation.
Randy Sharp, a former mine worker who has worked with underground blasting disputed that properly conducted blasting would not be likely to cause changes to the water table or cause dangers to the pipeline. The commissioners decided they would need more expert information before writing any letters to federal legislatures taking a stand one way or the other about the proposed site.
Kara Dense from the WV Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus presented a plaque to Cara Rose of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) which symbolizes their recent three-year CVB Accreditation.
Additionally, the commissioners:
- Authorized Courthouse Custodian Roger Ober to continue painting the courthouse offices and hallways on a rotational basis, doing as much of the painting personally before hiring any painting companies, and requested that he consult with the commission before hiring any outside painting firms.
- Approved the Community Corrections Program’s grant applications for both the 2020-2021 Community Corrections Grant and the West Virginia Justice Reinvestment Initiative Grant.
- Appointed J. Michael Anderson as a county Fiduciary Commissioner.
- Withheld approving a twenty-five thousand dollar ($25,000) local commitment toward the Mountain Transit Authority’s 2020-2021 grant match. The commissioners want to talk with Tim Thomas of the MTA at a future meeting before approving this.
- Designated the County Commission as the lead agency on any development or redevelopment of water and sewer facilities located on Beard Heights. These facilities service both PMH and Marlinton Middle School.
- Approved applying to AT&T Cellular for discount rates for commission employees’ cell phones.
- Accepted the resignation of Jason Scotchie as the PMH Representative to the Emergency Medical Services Authority and appointment of Ryan Sparks to that authority to fill the remaining portion of Scotchie’s term. It was pointed out that Scotchie wishes to concentrate his efforts on his work as an EMS instructor.