New Public Transportation and Expansion of Hiking/Biking Trails Discussed for Pocahontas County
Two interesting possible additions to Pocahontas County were discussed at the May 21st County Commission meeting. First, Tim Thomas, the General Manager of the Mountain Transit Authority, told the Commissioners that his public transportation bus company is very interested in returning its bus service to Pocahontas County. The Mountain Transit Authority, known as the MTA, which now provides extensive public bus service in Greenbrier, Nicholas and Webster Counties, used to provide service in Pocahontas County, but pulled out of the County in 2003 due to lack of ridership. Thomas said that now, under their Human Service Coordination Plan, they want to move into additional counties, with Pocahontas County being one of the primary ones. Thomas is initially proposing that the service be for a trial period to see if the residents use it. Mayor Felton of Marlinton and the several of the Commissioners said that any trial period should be for at least a 12- or 18-month period, and Thomas seemed receptive to that.
Thomas said the bus service could include local routes in places like Marlinton for grocery shopping, as well as to other points up and down the County. He said it could also provide commuter service for employees to jobs at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, Interstate Hardwoods in Bartow and to other locations in the County. He said service could also transport county residents to Walmart, the Greenbrier Valley Airport and other shopping and medical destinations in Lewisburg. Thomas said that additionally service could be designed to help tourists reach attractions in the County and even shuttle mountain bikers with their bikes and hikers up and down the Greenbrier River Trail and other biking or hiking trails.
Thomas said he has already discussed the transportation needs of Marlinton residents with Mayor Felton, and is scheduling a public roundtable discussion with the entire county community on June 18th at 10:30 a.m. at the Marlinton Town Hall to get a better grasp of the needs and desires for public transportation in the County. Thomas pointed out that the State of West Virginia has committed to providing financial assistance and support for expanding the MTA here. He said that studies have shown that for every dollar invested into public transportation, four dollars come back into the community. Thomas said that busses and personnel would be assigned to and kept in Pocahontas County, and local drivers would be hired.
The next proposed addition to Pocahontas County was presented by Eric Lindberg of Pocahontas Trails and District Ranger Jack Tribble of the Greenbrier Ranger District, Monongahela National Forest. They asked the Commissioners to provide a letter of support for their Department of Highways Alternative Transportation Grant which would be for $435,000 with a $65,000 to $70,000 local match which will be put up by the Snowshoe Mountain Resort and Pocahontas Trails. The grant would fund expanding the hiking/biking trails in the Mon National Forest to the northern parts of Pocahontas County. They handed out maps showing the current and proposed Cheat Mountain trails which, when completed will be a gigantic loop from the Snowshoe Mountain Resort trails, north overlooking the town of Spruce continuing North through the Cheat Mountain area and dipping briefly into southern Randolph County then returning South on other trails to the East. Lindberg and Tribble said this huge trail system will enhance the International Mountain Bike Association’s Ride Center designation for the County, which is currently in the final stages of approval by IMBA. They said that when all these trails are completed, Pocahontas County will be one of America’s premier destinations for mountain biking tourism.
Also, at their meeting, the Commissioners held a brief public meeting for and voted to write a letter of support for the Region 4 Planning and Development Council’s Pocahontas County Re-Connect Grant application and approved the County Broadband Study.
At the request of Kim Kershner of the Pocahontas County Magistrate’s Office, the Commissioners voted to make one of the three restrooms in the basement of the Courthouse a locked private restroom for County employees. This was approved by the Commissioners for a trial period of three months, to gage public reaction to this.
The Students Against Destructive Decisions provided a short update on their events and programs, although none of the students were able to attend this meeting.
The Commissioners voted to approve of the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool proposal for insurance coverage for the next fiscal year. They learned at their May 10th Special Session that their properties are all insured at actual replacement value, which resolved their questions and concerns expressed at their May 7th meeting.
In another big decision at this meeting, the Commissioners voted to purchase the building next to the 911 Center from Michael McGee for $25,000 which will be used to meet future expansion needs of the County Government.