Pocahontas Commission ponders what to do with Green Bank industrial site
At the Pocahontas County commissioners first meeting of 2015 on January 6th, a business proposal from an individual once again raised the question of exactly what kind of business can be located on a large tract of county owned land in Green Bank across from the health clinic and senior center.
Cass resident John Fitzgerald spoke to the commissioners about the possibility of leasing 30 acres in Green Bank to use for hay making and other possible crops. Fitzgerald said after watching the land remain dormant for so many years, he decided to approach the commission to see if he could use it for agricultural purposes.
And therein lays the question and potential problem with using the site for an agricultural business. Commission Assistant Sue Helton said the land was deeded to the commission by the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation with deed restrictions. She said the land is “totally and completely tied up” and that it’s to be used for economic development and industrial use and no other. She also reminded the commissioners that there is a rare grass that grows on parts of the land that can’t be disturbed.
Commissioner Jamie Walker said he’s unsure what the definition of economic development would be for that site. Commissioner David McLaughlin said he considers economic development as employing a certain amount of people. He cited the example of Jacob Meck who leases property adjacent to the site in question and employs a number of people.
Fitzgerald said he planned to offer employment to other people if granted the lease.
Other business proposals for the land have come before the commissioners over the years. Jacob Meck sought to increase his lease to expand his business, but the proposal was rejected by the commissioners. The Pocahontas County Arts Council also considered a lease for several acres for an arts center, but that project was not pursued.
Commissioner Bill Beard recommended getting legal advice before proceeding further. He asked county prosecuting attorney Eugene Simmons to research and offer a legal opinion on the property in conjunction with a consultation with the GVEDC. The commission will reconsider Fitzgerald’s proposal at the February 3rd meeting.
In other business, B.J. Gudmundsson, Project Officer with the non-profit Preserving Pocahontas, gave an annual update on the the organization’s activities. Of particular note during the past year is an arrangement with West Virginia University (WVU), the new repository of the Pearl S. Buck archives. The WVU history research website will include a webpage linked to the Preserving Pocahontas website. Gudmundsson said the new arrangement is expected to greatly increase the already high web traffic at the group’s website, preservingpocahontas.org.
Gudmundsson said Preserving Pocahontas would be requesting an allotment of the county hotel/motel tax this year.
The Commission rejected a bid of $29,565 for maintenance work on trails in the Tea Creek area. The commission is the fiscal sponsor for the project, but is making no expenditures. U.S. Forest Service employee Nicholas Brown explained that rather than the almost $30,000.00 in state grant money for the project they believed would be forthcoming, they have received grant proceeds of just $22,400. Brown said the trail work will be re-advertised in the future with less work or possibly divided into individual trails.
The annual reorganization of the commission, held each January, resulted in the election of Bill Beard as its new President. The Commission also made board appointments. Beard will serve on the Senior Citizens, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, GVEDC, Emergency Medical Services and Region IV boards. Commissioner Walker will serve on the Dept of Health, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Farmland Protection, Extension Service and Community Corrections boards. Commissioner McLaughlin will serve on the Water Resources Task Force, Local Emergency Planning Committee and Region 1 Elected Officials boards.
The commission also took the following actions:
– Accepted a bid of $28,503 from Greenbrier Motors for a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee for the Sheriff’s Department;
– Acting as the fiscal sponsor, approved a $2,000 grant contract and resolution for Linwood Alive to purchase appliances for its day care center.
Thanks to Geoff Hamill of the Pocahontas Times for the information in this report.