Pocahontas County Receives $255,950.38 Opioid Settlement Check

At the January 2nd Pocahontas County Commission meeting, it was revealed that they had received a $255,950.38 Opioid Settlement check several days ago. Their attorney, Stephen Skinner, recently told the commission that the several hundred thousand dollar check they were about to receive would be only the first installment and future checks could be spread out  for up to 12 years, with a total amount being around $400,000. He also told them there were restrictions regarding what the money can be spent on.

County Clerk Missy Bennett provided a 15-page document that had been sent to the county which provides guidelines for the approved uses of the settlement funds. Generally speaking, this document says that the money can be spent on opioid crisis related things, such as: opioid abuse prevention; medical overdose treatment; drug rehab programs; and law enforcement efforts to prevent the illegal distribution of opioids or the over-prescribing of opioids by doctors.

Commission President Walt Helmick said there have been rumors that the county had already received opioid settlement funds and had used them to purchase the drug dog for the Sheriff’s Department, but that is untrue, as this recently received check is the first and only settlement funds received so far. Commissioner Rebinski added that the drug dog, including its training, was paid for by a $50,000 Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF) grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Helmick said the commission will form a committee to determine how the opioid funds should be spent.  Rebinski also pointed out that 80% of the settlement funds WV received was held on to by the state, which only distributed 20% to the counties. Mayor Felton said the Town of Marlinton only received a settlement check for $604.55, despite years of filing paperwork for it.

Since this is the first commission meeting of the new year, the commissioners reorganized the commission. Helmick was unanimously voted to remain as Commission President. They also voted to retain the same commission board assignments as last year, which are:

  • Purchasing Agent -Walt Helmick
  • Emergency Medical Service -John Rebinski
  • 911 Advisory Board -John Rebinski
  • Local Emergency Planning Committee -John Rebinski
  • Board of Health -Jamie Walker
  • Hospital Board -Walt Helmick
  • Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC) – Walt Helmick
  • Region 4 Planning and Development Council – Walt Helmick
  • Extension Service/4H – John Rebinski
  • Senior Citizens – Walt Helmick
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau – Jamie Walker
  • Region 1 Local Elected Officials Board – John Rebinski
  • Farmland Protection Board – Jamie Walker
  • Fire Board – John Rebinski
  • Community Criminal Justice Board – Jamie Walker

Also at this meeting, Hallie Herald the Interim Director of the Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitor Information Centers and Sue Anne Heatherly, the President of the libraries’ Board of Trustees, delivered their annual update to the commission. They said total attendance at the libraries increased by 14% this past year, and computer/WIFI use by 15%. They noted that last year the County Commission’s financial support of the libraries was reduced in both general fund money and Hotel/Motel Tax money. Their 2023 operating budget is $362.000. Helmick suggested that the BOE should perhaps be funding the libraries since they use the Hillsboro and Marlinton libraries as school libraries.

Alicia Tallman, Director of the One Room University (ORU) delivered their annual update. They are affiliated with the New River Community and Technical College. She said over the years, 49 students have used the ORU in the county to obtain degrees or certificates. They currently have 10 students attending, and 9 additional students are enrolling for the spring semester. The classes are held on the 2nd floor of the City National Bank in Marlinton and classes can start in the morning and some are held in the evenings. They rent the second floor of the bank building for $3,500 per year, which includes utilities. Tallman said they will also be offering an EMT course at PCHS, since 10 students there have expressed an interest in becoming EMTs, and will also offer a Paramedic course at their Marlinton campus. Helmick suggested that they might want to move their campus to PCHS to save rent money, but Tallman did not feel PCHS would be a practical place for the ORU.

Jason Bauserman, Bob Sheets and Tim Wade delivered the annual report for the Pocahontas County Historic Landmarks Commission. They reported they have made repairs to the outside of the Opera House, and are looking to do improvements to the interior this coming year, perhaps adding an office. They have also been adding insulation to the historic Log Cabin in Marlinton. Tim Wade said they are in good shape financially for the restoration of the old Pocahontas County Clerk’s Office in Huntersville.

Additionally, the commissioners appointed David G. Hammond to be the county’s Fiduciary Commissioner.

Amanda Smarr of Region 4 asked the commissioners to support the U.S. Forest Service Special Use Permit, which will allow the County ARC Broadband Project to string fiber-optic lines through portions of the Mon Forest. She said the Forest Service has already approved this, but now commission approval is needed. The commissioners approved this.

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.

Current Weather