Pocahontas Commissioners Don’t Authorize Hospital to Apply for USDA Loan

For the second County Commission meeting in a row, the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) asked the Commissioners to grant them permission to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan of up to 5 million dollars for a badly needed expansion of outpatient services facilities, roof replacement and other needed repairs to their facility. At their last Commission meeting, Commissioner Walt Helmick convinced the other two Commissioners that more information about these proposed expansions and repairs was needed. Since that meeting, the Commissioners met with the architects and hospital management at the hospital and received information about the Hospital’s needs, setting the stage for the Hospital to once again request permission to apply for the loan at the June 18th Commission Meeting.

Again, Commissioner Helmick expressed reservations about allowing the Hospital to apply for the loan. He questioned whether PMH might be taking on an unmanageable debt, although PMH management assured him that the size of the loan they would actually apply for would be limited to the amount an independent auditing firm determines they can afford. That feasibility study would prevent them from asking for too big of a loan and taking on too much debt.

Commissioner Helmick said he still has too many unanswered questions about the loan and the proposed renovations, He said that he has learned that the current water and sewerage system at PMH won’t accommodate any expansion, so it would require another debt to replace those systems in addition to the loan debt. He pointed out that the Town of Marlinton might possibly be interested in extending their water and sewer system to the hospital. Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton, who was at the meeting, added that such an expansion of the Town’s water and sewer to PMH, while a distinct possibility, is by no means a certainty. In any event, it would not happen quickly. He said it would involve a large expense to the town and would need approval of the Council and the town residents.

Commissioner Helmick said he would also like to explore other possibilities such as applying for a grant through the Region 4 Planning and Development Council which could alleviate the need for the loan altogether. Once again, the Commissioners decided they were not prepared to act on PMH’s request for approval to apply for the loan without getting more answers and information.

The Commissioners took no action on two other items that were on the agenda for this meeting. In the first of these, Sue Helton, the Commission’s Administrative Assistant, said that Erwin Berry and Rachel Taylor withdrew their request to pay their Hotel Occupancy Tax payments on a quarterly rather than a monthly basis after they learned that state law requires monthly payments of the tax.  The other agenda item non-action was the result of James Pennington not appearing at the meeting where he was scheduled to contest the 911 Mapping and Addressing’s decision to change his physical address because an earlier mistake on their part had resulted in his being assigned an incorrect address, which he wants to keep as his address.

The Commission did take action on the following:

  • They approved changing Holly Boaudoin’s position at the 911 Center from being a Part-Time 911 Dispatcher to becoming a Full-Time 911 Dispatcher effective July 1, 2019 at $12.25 per hour plus full-time benefits.
  • They approved hiring Madora Smith as a Full-Time Administrative Assistant at the Day Report Center, effective July 1, 2019 at $12.00 per hour plus benefits.
  • They approved having Barnett Builders remove the old heating oil tank and install a new one at the Jail building at a cost of $14,720. They are the only company licensed in the County to remove and install oil tanks according to the Commissioners.
  • They designated each of the banks located in Pocahontas County as official depositories for the County for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
  • They renewed Global Science and Technology’s agreement to provide computer services to the Commission for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
  • They awarded an anonymous $5000 grant to the Opera House. This grant was given to the Commission to award to “any entity affiliated with education or the arts” by a person who wishes to remain anonymous and who was described by Bob Martin as being “a young former resident who has done well.”

Bob Martin, the Commission’s Counsel, delivered his report in which he said he has received a letter stating that the monetary award in the PELT lawsuit is coming. Martin also reported that of the eight applicants for Deputy Sheriff positions who took the written test last March, all but two have been disqualified for various reasons and they will be scheduling a new written test soon.

Prior to signing invoices and closing the meeting, the Commissioners met in Executive Session with Martin on an “Attorney-Client matter”.

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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