It’s the Pocahontas County Commission… Not a Bank!

Lauren Bennett, the Director of the Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation appeared before the County Commission at their December 6th regular meeting to ask for their help. Lauren explains the financial difficulties the agency is experiencing.

“Essentially with the shortfall of Hotel/Motel tax from last winter, we are finding ourselves right now in a pretty tight situation right now to the point of where we won’t be able to meet payroll and operate as we are doing right now for the next few months” said Bennett.

Bennett produced financial reports which showed the shortfall of Hotel/Motel revenue which Parks and Recreation is receiving this year compared to the last two calendar years. They received $177.538.43 in 2014, $184,280.98 in 2015 and only $131,722.55 in 2016.  They also had about $16,000.00 in unexpected expenses this year. Bennett also produced a document showing that the agency has just passed a rigorous audit of its financial practices.

Bennett also asked the Commissioners if they could change the way the Hotel/Motel Tax is distributed, since those groups with set amounts of money from the tax guaranteed -such as the Hospital, EMS and fire departments are paid their full year’s allotment from the tax in January, which results in other County agencies such as Parks and Recreation who receive a percentage of the remaining tax revenue not receiving any money in January, and sometimes not until April. She suggested if all agencies could have their payments spread out over a number of months, everyone would receive some money every month.

The Commissioners said they could not change the timing of the tax is allotment distributions because those are set by policy and State law.

Bennett said that if the Commission could not loan or advance any money to the agency to get them through the next few months, perhaps they could authorize them to obtain a line-of-credit loan from a local bank.

All three Commissioners were very sympathetic to the temporary financial plight of Parks and Recreation but were unwilling to set a precedent of advancing or loaning money to any agency. Commissioner McLaughlin explains.

“I do not think we (the Commission) should be in the business of giving loans” said McLaughlin. If we can write a letter of support for a line of credit from the bank then that would be the best route I think.”

All three Commissioners balked at setting a precedent by advancing or loaning the money but they voted unanimously to write a letter to a bank in support of Park Recreation’s obtaining a line of credit to tide them over for a few months.

In other actions, the Commissioners agreed with 911 Director Mike O’Brien that the Nixle 360 contract should be renewed, they asked him to research what other counties pay for the Nixle notification service and see if he can negotiate a less expensive deal with Nixle.

They agreed to renew the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s lease for office space in the former shoe Factory Building.

They also conducted a live conference call with Melisa Green of the West Virginia Department of Highways’ Grant Office about the status of the Camp Bartow Preservation Project Grant. They were told that it appears that the purchase of the land could be accomplished before the end of the Grant on December 31st, however the approvals needed to purchase the signage, fencing and historical interpretation plaques could not be completed before the grant expires because other state agencies would need to do site inspections before approving these. She did say that those could possibly be bought later through a new grant application.  They discussed communications problems both the Division of highways and the Commission has had with the WV Land Trust. Green reminded the Commissioners that they, and not the Land Trust are responsible for this grant, and that they cannot turn ownership of the property over to another group for 15 years, and then only with the approval of the State Division of Highways. Both ahe Commission and the Division of Highways are now awaiting the receipt of the land purchase closing documents, and itemized costs from the WV Land Trust, which are due within a couple of days.

The meeting ended with the payment of invoices.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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