Pocahontas Commission Agrees To Try Night Meetings
Marlinton, WV – At the urging of its newest member, the Pocahontas County Commission agrees to make a significant change to its meeting schedule, one intended to make the monthly meetings more accessible to county residents. Jamie Walker, who took office as Commissioner on January 1st, says he did a lot of talking with residents from all over the county prior to his first County Commission meeting on January 4th.
“Well, throughout the county I have talked to several people” says Walker “including people from Denmar Corrections, the school system, the hospital, state road, the Observatory at Green Bank, the local banks here in town, state parks, Seneca, a lot of the other town businesses. 99% of the feedback I’m getting is these people cannot afford to take off work and come to meetings during the day. So I think it would be a good idea to give them the opportunity to be here and move one of the meetings to the evening.”
Walker told his fellow Commissioners that 10 West Virginia Commissions have moved all of their regular meetings to the evening, and another 13 split their monthly meetings between day and night. Commissioner David Fleming says he’s concerned about the security of having the courthouse open at night and meetings possibly running late into the evening. Nevertheless, he made a motion to schedule the second monthly meeting of the Commission to begin at 4pm. Commissioner Martin Saffer voiced his opposition to making a change to the meeting schedule.
“I’m opposed to the idea of evening meetings” says Saffer. “Number one, the County Commission has to act in concert with the operation of the courthouse when it convenes, with the other [elected] officials and personnel who are here. In the evening time, it would greatly inconvenience, especially in the winter time with travel and that kind of thing. And the notion that somehow that the public would be more willing or want to come to a meeting – I note that when there is an issue that concerns people they come, and they come in numbers.”
But Walker says that misses the point when it comes to being accessible to county citizens.
“Mr. Tim McCormick from Ohio County, he told me that as of 4 years ago, they moved every single one of their meetings to 6pm in the evening, strictly for the people of their county” says Walker. “He said as far as the elected officials goes, you’re elected by the county just like we are. He said we’re all 24/7 people; when somebody needs you, that’s your responsibility to be there. If they don’t want the job, they shouldn’t have run for it in the first place.”
Flemings’ motion to begin the second meeting at 4pm died for lack of a second. Walker subsequently made a motion to begin the meeting at 5pm. After further discussion, the motion passed two to one with Saffer opposed.
In other business, the Commissioners also went through the annual reorganization and allotting of county board appointments. Commissioner Saffer, former President of the Commission, nominated Commissioner Fleming to that post. The motion passed unanimously.
The Commissioners will split up the county board assignments as follows – Fleming will remain on the boards for the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, Region 4 Planning & Development, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, the 911 Advisory board, the EMS Authority, the Elk Headwaters Watershed Association, and the Water Resource Task Force. Commissioner Saffer will remain on the boards for the Farmland Protection Board, the Fire Assoc, East Cass Mitigation and the regional Community Corrections board. Commissioner Walker will serve on the boards for the WVU County Extension office and the Pocahontas County Seniors.