Two of the Pocahontas Commissioners’ Priority Projects Suffer Setbacks
At the November 16th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, it was disclosed that two of the highest commission priority project proposals have suffered setbacks because their funding grant applications have been denied.
The first of these was the addition of a new Courthouse Annex Building, and it was revealed that their grant application for funding for the Annex Project has been denied by the WV Courthouse Facility Improvement Authority.
The second project is the new 911 Center to be built near PMH. The funding grant for that, a Small Cities Community Block Grant for Hazardous Mitigation was also denied, although, Commissioner Rebinski pointed out they can reapply for that grant in January.
The commissioners also received a request from the Family Resource Network (FRN) for a contribution to help needy families during the holidays. Commissioner Rebinski dismissed this, saying the commission doesn’t have any budget item to do donations so they will have to ask for this at the next regular contributions meeting in the spring. It should be noted that the Commission did not schedule their normal November contributions meeting without giving any reason for not doing so.
The commissioners also received a letter regarding the settlement of a Federal District Court civil lawsuit against the County, the Sheriff and a Deputy Sheriff. The letter stated the matter is now over because the county’s Insurance Provider -the WV Risk Pool – has reached a settlement with the plaintiff and agreed to pay the plaintiff $525,000. The case involved a shooting of the plaintiff by a Deputy Sheriff. The insurance company will pay the settlement, but, Commission President Helmick pointed out that this will ultimately raise the insurance policy rates for the county.
The commission also received a card from a citizen thanking them for establishing a Green Box trash site at the Frank Tannery and paving the roads to the Green Boxes. Helmick said this is good because “it’s all about picking up the vote.”
The commissioners held a public hearing regarding their EPA Brownfields cleanup grant application. George Carico, Director of the WV Brownfields Assistance Center, explained this grant is submitted to the EPA to have a section of the former Howes Tannery site at the East Fork Industrial Park cleaned up. He said that if the grant is approved, the first phase is to remove the asbestos from the buildings and the second phase is to do the work necessary to place the property into the WV Voluntary Remediation Program which will include ongoing ground water monitoring. The ultimate goal is to have the site declared safe for industrial use, but not residential use.
Vivian Parsons of the WV risk Pool explained some of the free training the Pool offers to the county employees designed to help keep the county out of liability problems.
The commissioners also approved a letter of understanding between themselves and PMH regarding the hospital’s HVAC and Roof replacement project.
Commissioner Rebinski talked adopting a Demolition Ordinance. This sparked John Leyzorek to express concerns such an ordinance would threaten citizens’ property rights. Rebinski explained this ordinance would just help property owners afford to remove hazardous structures from their property.
Finally, Commissioner John Rebinski talked about spending the county’s 1.6-billion-dollar American Rescue Plan’s COVID relief money. He said the priority should be using it for water and sewer projects, such as the one on Beard Heights or the one at the 4 H camp at Thornwood, over handing out money to the Family Resource Network or the Family Refuge Center. Rebinski explained his water and sewer project priorities: “My opinion is those are top priorities to see what we are going to need out of that COVID money before we hand out money.”
Commissioner Jesse Groseclose also suggested that some of the money be used to provide local matching funds for Broadband Grants.
At a Special Commission meeting held at Noon on Thursday, November 18th, the commissioners spoke with Susan Pierce and Ben Riggle of the WV Department of Arts, Culture and History about getting the County Jail decertified from the National Registry of Historic Places. Pierce asked Helmick how much the cost would be for the demolition of the jail and the erection of the new Courthouse Annex and would it be Federally funded in any way, or just local money. Helmick replied he guessed it would cost 3.5 to 4 million dollars and it would not use Federal funds but would be paid for by local tax money. Pierce said if that is the case there is no need to decertify the jail to demolish it but no Federal funds could be used to do this, or even to add future additional items to the new building such as metal detectors funded by homeland Security. That gave the commissioners some pause and they asked what would be involved in decertifying the jail. Pierce said they would have to follow a lengthy process and submit documents but it could be doable. Helmick said the commission would consider following that process.