Pocahontas Commission holds emergency meeting

Marlinton, W.Va. – The tri-county area was hit with a powerful, destructive wind storm on Friday night. The Pocahontas County Commission held its first emergency meeting of the crisis at the start of its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday morning.
During the meeting, Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese blasted the commission for not convening sooner to deal with the crisis.

“Of course, we’ve had no contact with any commissioners for five days, which I think you all should have been out there first thing,” he said.

Chief Deputy David Walton tells Commissioner Martin Saffer that the commission “dropped the ball” by not convening sooner and Saffer responds.

“I’d just like to know, to be honest with you, why it’s taken four days to have a meeting with the county commission,” he said. “I mean, this has been going on since Friday night. Why has it taken four days to have a meeting with the county commission?” Walton asked.

“Well, we’re here today,” said Saffer.
“Yeah, but you weren’t here Saturday or Sunday,” Walton said.

“I was here yesterday and I was in the emergency along with you,” Saffer said. “I have no power. I have no nothing. I’m struggling along with everybody else. So, we’re here today. We’re trying to do the best we can here.”

“You dropped the ball until today,” Walton said.
“Well, I disagree with that,” said Saffer. “We’re here today and I don’t think that going back and forth is a way to proceed forward.”

Jonese says the Sheriff’s Department took the initiative to get relief efforts started.
“We’ve gone ahead and taken the lead, on our own,” he said. “And we have purchased materials, generators. We’re providing food resources and free meals, so forth.”

“We’ve made arrangements to go get truckloads of bottled water to bring into the county to issue out. And we’re working now to bring showers and stuff, because even though the Town of Marlinton has water, part of the rest of the county doesn’t.”

Following a brief closed-door session, the commission voted 3-0 to terminate the services of Emergency Services Director Melvin Martin. The commission appointed Deputy Emergency Services Chief Shawn Dunbrack as acting director and authorized Dunbrack to appoint an acting deputy.

Retired fire chief David Peacock made a number of recommendations, including a crisis resource planning committee.

“I think that’s something we really need to look at is a resource list and have a committee, available to set down, from each department and say, ‘we have these items,’ whether they be generators, pumps or whatever. A resource list that we don’t have to wait for the State gets them to us.”

Dunbrack agreed.

“I’ve worked with Dave at Marlinton alone for many years and he’s exactly right,” he said. “There was a local emergency planning committee and it kind of disappeared a few years ago.”`

Snowshoe chief operations officer Frank DeBerry offered resort resources to alleviate the crisis.

“I mean, we have a lot of resources to put toward this,” he said. “We just need someone to work with to make those available – make it known those are there. We’d be happy to do it.”
Since Tuesdays meeting, Snowshoe personnel, vehicles, generators, water and lodging have been coordinated for relief efforts.

During its regular session, the commission voted 2-1 to hire attorney Sam Hanna to represent the commission’s support for the Pocahontas Public Service District in an upcoming status conference in the legal action at the Public Service Commisssion, regarding a Snowshoe-area sewage system. Commissioner Jamie Walker opposed the hiring.

The commission also voted 3-0 to establish an animal shelter account to receive donations for the county-operated animal shelter in Marlinton.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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