Marlinton Town Council Rejects Hydrofracking Resolution
Marlinton, WV – During its regular meeting on February 6, Marlinton council considered a resolution opposing hydrofracture natural gas drilling in areas where the extraction technique could adversely affect the town’s water supply.
During a public comment period, Beth Little read extracts of two recent news articles about the hydraulic fracturing technique. A Washington Post discussed Rockingham County, Virginia, where the board of supervisors did not grant a special use permit and blocked further gas drilling in the county. A Nation And World article described both the benefit and blight that accompanied a gas drilling boom in North Dakota. Fred Burns told council that it should work on flood control for the town rather than dealing with gas drilling.
“We don’t want government agencies telling us what we do with our land, what we do with our lives,” he said. “We’re fed up with government telling us what we can eat, what we can drive, what kind of light bulbs we can use in our homes, what kind of health care we can have. The government is running our lives and I don’t think you need to get involved with this issue as a town government.”
Councilmember Norris Long said the resolution would be a form of zoning.
“The town of Marlinton is trying to impose zoning to our county, which would limit business that could occur from the operation of shale drilling,” he said. “I stand against the resolution – period.”
Councilmember Loretta Malcomb says hydrofracture drilling would be detrimental, in the long term, for the town.
“I think if it does happen, the negative effects will be far more than any jobs it would create for the moment,” she said.
Council disapproved the resolution by a 4-2 vote. Councilmember David Zorn was not present. Mayor Joe Smith voted in opposition. Long questioned the legality of the mayor’s vote, in a non-tiebreaking situation, and the mayor said he was allowed to vote on any issue.
Zach Chittum, the new owner of the McK Building, told council he was shocked by the town’s high utility rates.
“I just wanted to voice my concern about the cost of my utilities here in the Town of Marlinton versus Huntington, where I have other property there,” he said. “It’s kind of shocking.”
Smith told Chittum that the Public Service Commission sets utility rates and that the town is working to reduce water leakage, which could reduce water rates. But the mayor said the town’s water system still loses 40-percent of pumped water.
“If we pump a million gallons, we losing 400,000,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons the rates is high.”
Chittum also asked council about town beautification programs. Smith said he had campaigned on cleaning up the town and that he was proposing a month-long cleanup campaign to begin in April. Smith said one vacant Main Street building would be gone soon.
“I’m in the process of trying to locate the owners of French’s Diner, on the corner” he said. “That building’s going to come out of there this summer, one way or the other. That building is an eyesore, right in the middle of town.”
Council voted 5-0 to approve the mayor’s proposed spring clean-up campaign and authorized the mayor to apply for a state Make It Shine grant. During the month of April, the town will pick up large items of debris or garbage, free of charge. The mayor said he will coordinate with local civic organizations for other clean-up projects during the month. The town will provide a free concert and free refreshments at Gazebo Park on April 27 from 5-7 p.m. to celebrate the conclusion of spring cleanup.
Potesta and Associates engineers Scott Copen and David Sharp told council that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection were requiring towns to submit a plan for the reduction of combined sewer overflow, or CSO. The town has a deadline of August 31 to submit a plan to the DEP. Sharp said Potesta had already submitted a generic plan for the town and could prepare the final plan for $17,950. Council voted 5-0 to accept Potesta’s proposal.
Sharp told council that the town’s water plant was in serious need of electrical and other repairs. The plant was built in 1982 and damaged during floods in 1985 and 1996. The engineer said Potesta could complete a report to determine the extent of necessary repairs, for no more than $10,000. Council voted 5-0 to authorize Potesta to complete the report.
In other business, Marlinton council:
– unanimously approved renewal of the State Police contract for six months.
– unanimously approved the second and final reading of a town parking ordinance, which codifies free parking on Main Street between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
– unanimously adopted the state building code.
– voted 4-1 to set the fees for copies at the town office at $1.
Councilmember Natasha McMann voted nay and said the fee was too high.
The next meeting of the Marlinton council is scheduled for March 5, 7 p.m. at the municipal building.