Commissioners Consider Metal Detectors at Courthouse
At the August 9th Special Session of the Pocahontas County Commission, there was a discussion about Courthouse Security discussed in Executive Session at the request of Sheriff Jeff Barlow.
While no official action was taken regarding this when the commissioners returned to open session, Commission President Walt Helmick said that among the issues discussed included having only one public entrance to the courthouse which would have a metal detector. Helmick noted that 28 or 29 courthouses in West Virginia remain unprotected by metal detectors at their entrances and that adding this extra security will help prevent any unthinkable incidents occurring at our courthouse in the future.
During a short discussion with Commissioner John Rebinski following adjournment of the special session, we learned that no final decision about adding metal detectors has yet been made. He also said that financing the equipment as well as the personnel that would be needed to staff the metal detector has yet to be determined. Rebinski said that as one possible example, armed security officers who have prior law enforcement experience are used to staff the metal detectors at the Greenbrier County Courthouse.
The other item on the agenda for this special session was a discussion of flood plain issues affecting both the county and the Town of Marlinton.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton commented that flood prevention mitigation needs to be an effort of the entire community to lesson the damage done by flooding, which has been occurring more frequently recently. He added that just the prior week we narrowly dodged severe storms that caused flooding in nearby areas. Felton said that economic development in Marlinton is already “tough enough,” but when you add the threat of flood damage, it becomes much more challenging.
Helmick said that fill placed on land can intensify flood damage, but fill settlement in the river is also a problem that also intensifies flood damage. He said that past efforts to address that river-fill with the Army Corps of Engineers has not provided productive results. Helmick, however, said the commission will shortly meet with that agency again to try and get their help in mitigating this river-fill threat.
Felton commented that the US Senate has recently passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, which would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge rivers like the Greenbrier River as an anti-flood measure, however that bill now needs to be reconciled with a House of Representatives version before becoming law. Helmick said we need to hold a Zoom Meeting with Senators Capito and Mansion to help assure that the bill becomes law.
Fred Burns said he saw a member of the Sierra Club many years ago in the Greenbrier River spreading grass seed, which has taken root and exacerbated the fill problem in the river near Marlinton. He said the grass has since been identified as a non-native invasive grass from South Africa. Burns said that in addition to large floods such as occurred in 1967 and 1985, there have been an increasing number of smaller but damaging floods.
Mayor Felton also said that the town’s Certified Flood Plain Coordinator has recently quit, and he asked the commissioners to consider jointly with the town hiring a certified County Flood Plain Coordinator to serve both the town and the county.
Other than committing to schedule future meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers and with both WV US Senators, no actions were taken regarding flood plain or flood mitigation issues.