The Pocahontas County Commission held a Special Meeting April 20 in which they interviewed four architectural-engineering companies bidding to design a building for a site near Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) to house both the Emergency Management/911 Center and PMH’s ambulance operations. At a prior meeting, the commissioners had reviewed a large number of bids from companies seeking to do this, and had selected four of those to be interviewed.
The four companies interviewed were: Becker Morgan Group, Thrasher, Pickering Associates and WYK Associates. A final decision was tabled until April 23.
The regular commission meeting followed the special meeting.
The commission agreed to pay former Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simmons $24,286,64 as ordered by Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Blake, Jr. for 53 percent of Simmons’ attorney fees incurred in his successful defence against complaints made against him to the State Lawyer Disciplinary Board by former commission attorney Bob Martin.
The commission had unsuccessfully argued to the Circuit Court that Martin had filed his complaint against Simmons without receiving authorization to do so by the commission and was therefore acting as a private citizen. However, the judge ruled that the county must pay 53 percent of those legal fees “as nine of the 17 complaints were directly related to the activities and business of the county commission, rather than the personal claims of Mr. Martin.”
The only other option would be to appeal the judge’s ruling to the West Virginia Supreme Court, which would be expensive with no guarantee of success. The commission reluctantly voted to comply with the ruling and pay the attorney fees.
The commission received a report from Monongahela National Forest Greenbrier District Ranger Jack Tribble. Tribble said timber harvesting is on the rise. Ten years ago, he said, there were nine to 10 million board feet of timber harvested, last year 24 million and, this year, more than 30 million board feet will be harvested.
Regarding recreational use, Tribble said they are working closely with the Snowshoe-Highlands IMBA Mountain Biking Ride Center to expand trails in the Mon Forest in both the northern part of the county and in the Marlinton area.
Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Cara Rose briefed the commission about the “Make it Shine” road litter clean-up program. The commission agreed to donate $2,500 to expand the project by 25 miles beyond the original 100 miles of roadway the clean-up program had included.
In other business, the commission
• agreed to a proposal by Commission President Walt Helmick to purchase back from Seneca Health Services a 2.8-acre lot near PMH that PMH sold to Seneca in 1995 for $35,000. The commissioners agreed to offer $60,000 to Seneca for the lot. Helmick said the site would be a good location for an assisted living facility in the future to be run by either PMH or, preferably, by a private firm.
• conducted a first reading of proposed amendments to the County Towing Ordinance, which would allow Fire and EMS responders, in addition to law enforcement officers, to call the 911 center to dispatch the next tow truck on the rotation. The second reading will occur at the commission’s May18th meeting.
• discussed possible locations for green box collection in Bartow, as the lease to the current site expires in June. No decision was made.
• officially laid the 2021-2022 fiscal year tax levy,
• tabled the agenda item dealing with the Frank Tannery office building until the May 4 meeting.
At a special commission meeting, called for April 23, in response to several emails from the public, Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton and MTA general manager Tim Thomas, the commission voted to support the MTA transit service in the county for the next year by contributing $25,000 for them to use as a local match on Federal and State grants.
The commission also selected WYK Associates’ proposal to provide Architectural and engineering services for the new 911 and Emergency Management facility to be built near Pocahontas Memorial Hospital.
Proposals for Broadband consulting services were opened and turned over to the county Broadband Committee to examine and return with a recommendation.