Pocahontas Commissioners to Start Procedures to Amend the Towing Ordinance
At the April 6th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Commissioner John Rebinski asked that the commission begin the process of amending the County Towing Ordinance to allow Fire or EMS personnel at the scene of a traffic accident where a vehicle needs an emergency tow, to be allowed to contact 911 Dispatch and request a tow by the next tow company on the rotation.
Currently the ordinance only allows a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) to make that request once they arrive on the scene. Rebinski has said that restriction can cause delays in getting a road cleared and reopened to traffic since LEO’s arrival at the scene is often delayed because they are responding to a call elsewhere. Under this proposed change, Fire and EMS would only be allowed to make the call for a tow truck if the owner has not made a request that a specific tow company be called. This restriction eliminates any possibility of Fire or EMS personnel steering the motorist to choose a tow company that the first responder favors.
Rebinski provided a letter from Sheriff Barlow which supports this change, and told his fellow commissioners that he has also received approvals of this by Fire and EMS and from five of the six towing companies’ representatives on the commission’s towing committee. The commission passed a motion to begin the process of changing the ordinance.
During the Mail Items and Concerns portion of the meeting, they received notification that the U.S. Forest Service is buying an additional three-hundred and sixty-one (361) acres near Durbin to add to the Monongahela National Forest, and all three commissioners voiced their support for this.
Charles Sheets informed the commission that the Tourism Council will be sponsoring county clean-up days on three Saturdays between May first to May 15th. The purpose of this is to remove trash from the sides of roads in order to beautify the county. He would like to get people, schools and organizations to volunteer on those days in this effort. Cara Rose of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) also spoke up in support of this and said the CVB, through the West Virginia, Make It Shine Program will also be running a similar program from Earth Day, April 22nd through the end of National Tourism Day on May 8th. She said that program will pay charitable organizations to one-hundred dollars ($100.00) per mile to register and pickup trash from the roadsides in the county. She said the goal is to clean up one-hundred miles of roads through this program. Interested organizations can contact her at the CVB -304-799-4636. Rose also suggested that Law Enforcement Officers write more littering citations. Those violations can cause points to be added to the vehicle operator’s drivers license if the trash is thrown from a vehicle, and can result in a fine of up to a thousand dollars ($1000.00.)
On another topic, Rose requested the commissioners write a letter supporting the Snowshoe Highlands Area Recreation Collaborative’s application for an Appalachian Regional Commission Technical Assistance Grant. This grant would be to provide for an implementation plan to develop a strategic plan for recreation projects in the county. This would include developing a plan to upgrade the International Mountain Biking Association’s Ride Center from Silver to Gold by 2025. This would be the first Gold Ride Center on the East Coast, according to Rose. The Commissioners voted to write this letter.
Rose also briefed the commissioners on the new state law about AirBNBs. She said under this law, which becomes effective on June 7th, the Hotel Occupancy Tax will be collected directly by the third-party rental companies such as AirBNB from a renter just the same as sales tax is, and those companies will directly remit the tax to the county. Rose said this should decrease the amount of uncollected tax. She also noted that Pocahontas County generates more Hotel Occupancy Tax then any other West Virginia County.
In answer to questions from Commissioner Rebinski, Rose said that so far this fiscal year (which began on July 1, 2020, there has been a 13% increase in Hotel Occupancy Tax collections in the county compared to this same time the prior fiscal year. She noted that was a 22% increase in tax collected in the month of January, 2021 over January, 2020.
Rose also said that Sage Tanguay, who works at Allegheny Mountain Radio, has been selected as the artist to do the artwork on the commission’s Bicentennial Trout.
After hearing from Sherrie Radcliff, the Board of Education’s Treasurer, explain that the ten-thousand dollars ($10,000.00) the commission had given to the BOE to use as a local match for a USDA Distant Learning Grant, will not be used for that since that grant was not approved by the USDA. She asked the commissioners to allow the BOE to hold on to that money to use as a local match for an Appalachian Regional commission (ARC) grant which would also provide the computer devices for students from grades 1 through 7. Radcliff said the BOE has already purchased devices for grades 8 through 12. The commissioners agreed to allow that.
Zachary Graham, Marlinton’s Flood Control Officer explained that portions of the 911 Center, the Jail and the Courthouse are currently listed in the Army Corp of Engineers flood map as being in the flood plain, at least their basements are. He said that those maps are “fluid.” Commission President Walt Helmick said he wanted to invite representatives of the army corps of Engineers to come to a commission meeting to explain about those maps, since some areas not designated as being in the flood plain on the maps flood while other areas designated as flood plain do not.
The commissioners approved Mike O’Brien, the 911 Director, to make an agreement with SecuriTech, LLC to conduct annual fire alarm teats at the 911 Center, for $284.85 and at the Courthouse/Jail at a cost of $2,042.30.
Commission President Helmick also talked about the possibility of the commission buying back an approximately 2.9-acre lot near the hospital from Seneca Health Services. The lot was sold to Seneca years ago by PMH. This will be discussed further at the next meeting.
Helmick and Mary Clendenen from the Solid Waste Authority asked the commission to authorize spending two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00) for a permit application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) for the county to establish a demolition disposal site at the East Fork Industrial Park. This will be used to dispose of building materials from demolished buildings. The commissioners approved this. Helmick also talked about their search for a new site for the Green Boxes in Bartow since the lease on the current site expires in June. He said they have two locations in mind.
The commissioners also approved a Two-thousand, nine-hundred and seventy-two dollars ($2,972.00) budget revision regarding an insurance payment on a 2015 Dodge Charger.
At the March 16 commission meeting, it was said that a tenant was found for the second floor of the former Tannery Office Building in Frank. The tenant was identified as the Pocahontas County PSD, but the PSD advises that it has not yet made a decision in that regard