Pocahontas Commissioner John Rebinski Discussed Issues with Abandoned Vehicles
At the February 1st Pocahontas County Commission Meeting Commissioner John Rebinski and Sheriff Jeff Barlow discussed issues making it difficult for law enforcement to tow vehicles that have been permanently abandoned by their owners along public roads in the county.
Barlow explained that when law enforcement officers either come across or are called to respond to a vehicle that has been sitting derelict along a roadway, and without tags or other owner identification on it, they have a difficult time having a towing company respond to remove the vehicle. He said the reason for that is without an identified owner, the towing company never gets paid for the tow, and additionally, if they do the tow, they go to the back of the 911 Center’s rotational tow list, causing them to potentially lose a paying tow. Barlow thanked Johnney’s Garage for towing one recently for his department, but said that usually doesn’t happen with towing companies.
Commissioner Rebinski said that in the future the county needs to establish a fund of several thousand dollars to at least be able to reimburse companies that do respond to these types of towing calls enough money to pay their towing fuel and expenses. All three commissioners also agreed that effective immediately such tows will not count against that towing company’s place on the rotational towing list.
Rebinski also brought up the efforts to increase emergency communications in the county by updating and replacing communications towers. Mike O’Brien, the 911 Director, said the PSD is willing to let them place an antenna on their water tower in Bartow, and the Observatory has indicated it has no objection to that. They are also looking at a new tower site on Droop Mountain, and replacing the tower at Thomastown in Marlinton. O’Brien said there are only three emergency communications towers in Pocahontas County, despite it being the third biggest county by landmass in the state. He said Nicholas County, which is smaller has seven towers.
During the Mail Items, County Clerk Melissa Bennett informed the commissioners that both her office and the Circuit Court Clerk’s office were each awarded $10,000 from WV Arts, Culture and History for their approved Records Preservation grants.
Cara Rose sent a message to the commissioners requesting that Waste Management consider placing green boxes at the bottom of Snowshoe Mountain. Commission President Walt Helmick said the commission would consider providing Waste Management with funding for doing that, if a suitable place for them is found.
It was noted that several people wrote the commission opposing the building of a new cell tower in the Hillsboro area.
BFD Volunteer fire Department wrote the commissioners and asked for financial help in hiring EMS personnel to help their emergency coverage. Commissioner Rebinski said if the commission gives money to one department for this, it would set a president requiring them to fund personnel for every volunteer department in the county. He suggested that the county instead consider placing a county unit there during daytime.
The commissioners and Region 4 held a public meeting on behalf of the Pocahontas County Public Service District regarding applying for a Community Development Block Grant for funding the Thornwood Waterline Extension Project. The grant can be for up to 2 million dollars, but the project will cost up to 3.2 million dollars. The commissioners said they will look at possibly making up the difference with their American Rescue Plan COVID funds. Mark Smith of the PSD said if that doesn’t work, they can get a loan to make up that 1.2-million-dollar difference.
The commissioners also discussed possibly providing funds to the Pocahontas
County Historic Landmark Commission to restore the original County Clerk’s Office in Huntersville. Helmick said the commission must eventually decide to either do that, or let the building continue to deteriorate, but, he said, this Bicentennial year would be a very appropriate time to do it.
Mike O’Brien informed the commissioners that his office had been offered a $12,500 Emergency Management Performance COVID-19 supplemental grant award. The commissioners approved his acceptance of this award.
Tony Byrd of the Northern Pocahontas County Community Assistance, Inc. asked for and received a contribution from the commission in the amount of $5000.
Paul Hutchinson, a Beckley Attorney representing Farm the Sun, LLC, told the commissioners that he is seeking landowners in the county to lease flat, treeless farmland to be used as solar farms. He said his company would represent the landowners and negotiate on their behalf with major solar companies. He said he is looking for properties of at least 50 acres located within 5 miles of an electric substation. He said landowners could receive as much as $1,500 per acre per year for a 20-to-25-year lease. No action on this was taken by the commissioners, but they found the idea interesting.
The commissioners also approved for the County Clerk’s Office to adopt an Emergency Absentee Voting Policy. Melissa Bennett said this only authorizes her office to provide the opportunity to vote for residents at the nursing home or patients in the hospital, and this policy is routinely approved each election year.
During a discussion about the County Jail Building, Commissioner Helmick said he wants to obtain an estimate of the cost for renovating the existing building for use as a Courthouse Annex. He wants to see if that would be more or less expensive then tearing the existing jail down and replacing it with a new Courthouse annex building
During a discussion about the Water Project on Beard Heights, Helmick also remarked that when considering this project, the commissioners must also recognize that eventually the commission will have to look at the possibility of outside ownership of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital by a medical group such as WVU.