Pocahontas Commission to Try for EPA Clean-up Grant for East Fork Site

At the August 17th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, George Carico of the WV Brownfields Assistance Center and Derrick Hancock of the WV DEP Environmental Remediation briefed the Pocahontas County Commissioners about their preliminary environmental assessment of the East Fork industrial Park in Frank. That assessment showed that the site has some residual environmental contamination in the soil and ground water, however the contamination is at a low level. Carico said that getting the site cleaned up to where it can safely be used for industrial purposes only would still require a lot of work and expense. He said the least expensive option appears to be leaving the soil contamination in place by capping it with two feet or so of clean soil, and enrolling the site in the WV DEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program. If that is done, and the asbestos is removed from the old building materials at the site, they can obtain a certificate from the DEP stating that the site is safe for industrial use. Even then, there would have to be restrictions placed in the deed that no potable water wells can be drilled there and no residential development there.

To pay for all the sampling wells that will have to be drilled there, as well as for the services of environmental experts, the county can apply for a Federal EPA Clean-up Grant for up to a half-a-million dollars, but these are very competitive grants. Despite that, Carico feels the county would have a 50% chance of receiving the grant. He would provide some advice and with the grant application, and Ruthana Beezley of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation also offered assistance with the application.

The commissioners voted to move forward with this application, which would be due in November; grant awards will be announced in May of 2022; but the funds would not be available for use until October 1, 2022.

Cara Rose of the Convention and Visitors Bureau told the commissioners that the past fiscal year’s Hotel-Motel Tax revenues were 2,2 million dollars, the highest ever collected during a fiscal year. She said that the tax collected during each of the four seasons went up.

The commissioners put off making any decision about a contested request to remove an estate representative until their next meeting.

Frontier Communications representatives Melvin Hunter and Anthony Rome once again appeared before the commissioners seeking to sell them a maintenance and service program for the courthouse telephone system. They offered one year, three year and five-year contracts, with deep discounts for the longer multi-year contracts. The commissioners, and several people in attendance, pointed out how unresponsive Frontier has been in fixing outages among residents and businesses and questioned whether Frontier would be just as unresponsive to the county under any maintenance and service contract. Commissioner John Rebinski suggested that Frontier offer the county a one-year trial contract at the same yearly rate as a five-year contract to see just how responsive Frontier would be. If the response times during the trial year are four hours or less as promised, the commission would consider a longer contract. Hunter and Rome said they would need to get that approved from higher up in the company, so the decision was once again tabled to the next meeting.

There was a discussion of the proposed courthouse annex project. Commission President Helmick said they need to bring Susan Pierce from the state to a meeting to discuss ways to remove the Historic Landmark status of the jailer’s house so that the jail can be demolished to make way for the annex. Helmick also said some people question the need for an annex since the county population is not growing, but it is needed because “maybe the population doesn’t grow, but the government does,” said Helmick.

Finally, the commissioners voted to accept option number 2 of the Greenbrier Conservation District’s plan to stabilize the East Fork Stream Bank, which involves installing rip-rap stone and tow wood, at a cost of about thirty-thousand dollars ($30,000.)

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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