Pocahontas County EMS Wants Changes to County Towing Ordinance
Commissioner David McLaughlin addressed the P0cahontas County Commission during the public Input portion of their October 2nd meeting. As the Commission’s representative to the County Fire Board, McLaughlin passed along the Fire Board’s dissatisfaction with the County Towing Ordinance which only allows a law enforcement officer to request a that an emergency tow be dispatched. He said that recently when the fire department responded to a pickup truck submerged in Buffalo Creek, the 911 dispatcher, following the dictates of the towing ordinance, refused to dispatch a tow truck to pull the vehicle out of the creek despite the fact that fuel and oil were leaking out of the vehicle and causing pollution in the creek. McLaughlin said that luckily there was a law enforcement officer nearby so the delay was not significant, however the incident has upset the Fire Board and the fire community. The Fire Board, according to McLaughlin, believes the ordinance’s prevention of first responders other then law enforcement from having a tow truck dispatched has caused 911 dispatchers “to become gatekeepers instead of facilitators.” McLaughlin told his fellow Commissioners to expect representatives of the Fire Board and other first responders to be coming to a future Commission Meeting to request that that requirement of the Towing Ordinance be revised to allow all first responders to ask to have a tow truck dispatched in an emergency situation. In a related matter, during the Commission’s “mail items and concerns” portion of their meeting, it was brought to the attention of the Commissioners that George Murphy of the Fire Board has sent a letter to the Commission requesting that someone from the Board be added to the towing committee which can recommend changes to the Towing Ordinance.
Also, at this meeting, the Commissioners heard from Cassie Lawson of the Region 4 Planning and Development Council via a telephonic conference call, Lawson asked the Commission to support and authorize that a Community Block Grant application be made for up to $75,000 to study the feasibility of bringing broadband internet connectivity to the county. She said this grant would not require a county funds as a match, and would only require that the Commission advertise and hold two public meetings on it before the grant submission deadline of October 30th. The Commissioners voted to go ahead with this and set public meetings to be held at the Commission Office at 5:45 pm on October 16th during the next regular Commission Meeting and at 10 am on Friday October 26th during a Special Commission meeting.
The Commissioners heard from Brenda Walters, the new owner of what used to be called Taylors Grocery just outside of Hillsboro and from Parween Mascari, owner of the West Virginia Market in Snowshoe regarding changing the laws in Pocahontas County that forbid businesses located outside of municipalities from selling any take-out alcoholic beverages other than beer. Both said they have received numerous requests from local residents and especially from tourists to purchase locally made wines, but they have to tell them that Pocahontas County is a “dry” county so they will have to go to one of the three municipal towns -Marlinton, Hillsboro or Durbin – or to another county to buy any take-out alcohol other than beer. Bob Martin said those restrictions were first placed during a 1930’s vote in the county, and that attempts to have the voters overturn that during elections in 1954 and 1962 both failed. He said that to change these restrictions, they would need to obtain on a petition, the signatures of 5% of the “qualified” voters of the county. That could, with Commission approval, have the matter brought to the voters during a special election. He said if the voters elect to do away with the “dry county” status, it would allow any business who obtains the proper state alcohol license to sell any alcohol beverage stronger than beer, including not only wine, but other liquor, in take-out packages anywhere in the county. Walters and Mascari indicated they will attempt to obtained the required number of petition signatures to bring this to a vote because it is good for the local economy and for tourism.
The Commissioners also received an update from District Ranger Jack Tribble and heard his update on nine Forest Service projects in the Greenbrier District of the Mon Forest.
Bob Martin asked the Commissioners to approve a settlement with William P. Stump and his Mountain State Reality Company on over $70,000 in delinquent Hotel Occupancy Tax money he owes since he stopped making the payments in 2009. Martin says Stump has been in poor health and will convey the deed to his own unit at Snowshoe to the County as settlement on these back taxes. The Commissioners voted to accept this. They will now have to decide how to best dispose of that property and put the proceeds back into the Hotel Occupancy Tax fund.