The Pocahontas Commission Celebrates the County’s 200th Birthday

The Pocahontas County Commission’s December 21st regular meeting coincided with the 200th birthday of the county, which was formed on December 21, 1821. So, the Commissioners began their meeting with a celebration of sorts. Michael Holstine, dressed in period clothing, appeared on the large Zoom Meeting screen in the Commission Office. Speaking contemporaneously as if it was 1821, he related the story of the founding of the county, and ended with the following.

“It is a time for celebration throughout this new county. For you good people have now established a home that can be called yours to guide to your own prosperity. May she live as an example of honest friendship; of equal freedom; and of generous reciprocity.”

Commission President Walt Helmick also read the official proclamation celebrating the Bicentennial of the county, Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds read a resolution recently passed by the Virginia State Senate congratulating Pocahontas County on its Bicentennial.

The celebration over, the commissioners moved forward with their regular meeting.

Lauren Bennett, Director of the Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation briefed the commissioners on their projects. She said they have redone the water system at Stillwell Park, and may add a skate park there in the future. She said they are planning to do upgrades at Whitney Park this year, and are looking for a grant to do a walking trail around Hillsboro which will have several small “pocket parks” along it, including one at the site of the old bank building in Hillsboro, which is supposed to be demolished in February.

B.J. Gudmundson provided an update of Preserving Pocahontas. She talked about the work they did helping the Bicentennial Committee with old photos for their program, and providing photos for the Greenbrier River Trail’s interpretive signs and said they are in the process of redoing their website.

Peggy Owens delivered an update on the Pocahontas County Arts Council. She said that because of COVID, most of their work with students was done this year at their studios rather than in the schools.

County Prosecutor Terry Helmick talked about a personnel matter with the commissioners. Although this was done in Executive Session, Commission President Helmick later explained this was about possibly hiring a temporary replacement for an employee with out with medical issues.

There was also a Broadband Project update. Sam Felton and Commissioner Groseclose said that the Broadband Council has decided to apply for the Reconnect Grant instead of the State’s ARPA Gig-Ready Grant because Reconnect allows more time which will be needed for the Internet Service Provider to complete the buildouts.

In other actions, the commissioners:

  • Awarded the county gasoline bid to Woodford Oil, the only bidder.
  • Extended the WV Division of Forestry’s lease at the Former Shoe Factory but at an increased monthly rental of $500.00.
  • Approved an agreement with Thompson and Litton regarding the Broadband Project, and approved a drawdown from the Broadband Study Grant Funds
  • Issued a notice of intent to consolidate a portion of Precinct 12 into Precinct 13 and create a new Precinct 22, all in the Central Magisterial District because of the 2020 Census redistricting.
  • Discussed the 4 storage tanks at the East fork Industrial Park that the commission sold to Buster Varner in 2011, and which he has still not removed from the site

Additionally, they discussed inviting Pocahontas County School administrators to a future meeting to hold a work session with them to discuss financial matters and the “1400 Formula” funds the schools receive from the state.

They read the latest MTA ridership numbers which indicate that ridership appears up. Tim Thomas from the MTA has told the commissioners that Pocahontas County is now the second most active area served by the MTA.

Commissioner John Rebinski expressed his concern about the proposed state constitutional amendment that will be voted on next year. He said if passed, it would do away with the state personal property tax and that would seriously hurt the county financially.

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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