By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The newest face of the Tucker County Commission, Jon Bush, sat alongside his fellow commissioners for his first regular meeting of the commission. Commission President Lowell Moore called the meeting to order and asked Reverend Greg Smith of the Baptist Church to lead the meeting in a word of prayer, followed by The Pledge of Allegiance.
There were two applicants for part time positions at the 911 Center, with Bush making a motion to approve Nicholas Gidley and Gabrielle Schryver and all agreeing. The next item was to hire a grant writer and county administrator to replace Joel Goughnour, who recently resigned from the position. “This has been a trying time,” Moore noted. There were eight very well qualified applicants for the position, however a decision had to be made and all three unanimously agreed to hire Sheila DeVilder to fill the position. “We’ve had to advertise and interview for a new commissioner, which we’re glad to welcome Jon Bush on board,” Moore said. “We had fifteen applicants for that job, we had eight for the administrator, and we’ve had a lot of time and research and conversations, and we feel that we’ve done our best,” he added. Davis agreed, stating, “They were all qualified, we had to pick one.” Bush added, “As far as the position of administrator, I feel the right choice was made.”
Teresa Helmick requested an update on the cleanup efforts in the Bretz area. Moore advised he was in the area the week prior along with law enforcement, the county planner, and James Snyder from the health department to evaluate the situation. Moore also contacted the DEP agent out of Elkins who has been monitoring the case and told Moore he was under the impression improvements were being made and was moving forward. “No, there is no progress,” Moore informed the agent. “It’s a disgrace,” stated Helmick in reference to the amount of trash and debris being scattered all over the residential area.
Helmick stated the landowner is continuing to add to the amount of trash on the property and other individual’s properties in addition. Moore is working with DEP and will be meeting with the agent on site soon, and Helmick asked to be involved with the meeting. Prosecuting Attorney, Ray LaMora, has been advising on the situation as well and noted code violations and the fact that many of the vehicles that are issues are not registered or on the tax tickets. It was also mentioned the landowner was given 120 days to clean up debris from a fire, and that timeframe has lapsed with little to no efforts made.
Thomas Mayor Matt Quattro requested funding assistance from the county commission. “The city of Thomas provides water for the town of Douglas,” he explained due to the water supply being compromised nearly two years ago. Unfortunately, there has been a water break in the line that runs underneath the river, so a temporary line has been ran to keep the residents in water. It is being investigated by an engineer to determine what the issue with the line is using a camera. Once the camera detects the malfunction, one of the several repair options will be decided upon, the easiest being running a smaller line inside the line in place. Unfortunately, until the problem is identified, the repair solution cannot be determined. This project could be extremely affordable or a couple hundred thousand dollars. “If it doesn’t get fixed by winter, I say they won’t have water,” stated Commissioner Fred Davis. Quattro is requesting assistance from the county once it is determined what needs to be done as the city of Thomas has already invested nearly $10,000 on temporary fixes.
Elected officials reports followed beginning with County Clerk Sherry Simmons. “The 2018-2019 grant is completed and this is for our records management,” she explained. The quarterly reports have been completed and filed as well. “We have received the new Election Calendar for 2020, and for everybody’s information we are in full election mode and the candidate filing dates are January 13 through January 25 of 2020.”
Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora reported next informing an assistant prosecuting attorney has been hired, which is Frank Bush. “He’s going to be an excellent addition to the office,” LaMora confirmed. He stated the case load he has been receiving has increased dramatically, especially within the abuse and neglect sector.
LaMora also noted a recent incident happened including a family with children calling in a complaint of their neighbors being loud and using foul language. State codes and county ordinances were reviewed to discover there is nothing that could be done in this matter, however it is now become a priority to produce a disturbing the peace ordinance that would include areas outside of public areas. “It’s sad you have to think about doing something like this to help out somebody who has children and is just trying to enjoy their time outside,” LaMora commented. Moore requested litter and nuisance to be included in the statute, which LaMora advised can be easily added.
Employee reports began with County Planner Dennis Filler, reporting 17 developmental permits have been issued thus far in 2019 with one stop work due to refusal to cooperate beforehand resulting in the first floor being below required height. Filler and Greg Stevens are participating in flood plain training to ensure ordinances remain up to state and federal guidelines. “We have received a DEP grant for litter control,” he continued. The maximum possible was $5,000, which was what Tucker County received. A program is being developed to enforce a litter control ordinance which is based upon education, remediation, and enforcement. GIS system work is continuing which will be an asset not only to the litter control, but to law enforcement, 911, and much more. Filler had also been asked to look into a mail server for Tucker County Employees, and reported so far he has discovered two options with costs ranging from $400 to $3,600 annually.
Community Corrections Director Dustin Luzier has been staying busy and noted they are waiting for their grant report that was submitted to the Governor. “Statewide, Dustin has pretty much been recognized as kind of a state leader in the correction program,” Moore said. “And I want to say this. He has developed and made this program, we thank him for his service,” applauded Moore on Luzier’s work. Luzier noted the reason his program is so successful because of the support from the entire county, including strong backing by the County Commission and the local Law Enforcement. He also said starting soon, Randolph County will be transporting their parolee’s to Tucker County to receive services offered by our local program.
Brett Ware, 911 Director reported briefly on the recent flooding effects on the county. He noted at 4 a.m. the Cheat River was at six feet of elevation and by 7 a.m. it had risen to 18 feet. He noted that is the flood level stage, though in 1985 the level was at 23 feet. He noted how fortunate we are the Shavers Fork River did not flood, stating, “Our hearts go out to the community of Harman.” Ware noted the Tucker County OEM and 911 offices took several items for the community in their time of hardship, and to date has not received any word of needs or assistance within our county. Ware does believe Tucker County will meet the FEMA threshold for reimbursement due to the damages on River Road and the Thomas Water System.
Ware also noted the potential date to go live with the updated phone systems at the 911 system is August 12. He also continued to encourage residents to sign up for the free Tucker Emergency Alert Messaging System at 911TEAMS.org. He added on Sunday prior to the flash flooding, TEAMS processed 700 messages and/or phone calls alerting residents to the impending weather in the timeframe of approximately four hours. The system is capable of sending out an estimated 300 per minute if necessary. “We do have all the landlines in the county in the database, that’s more of an absolute in case of an emergency,” he said. Lastly, he noted the town of Parsons may have experienced a gas smell on Sunday, this being due to several propane tanks washed down river from Harman.
There were no correspondences but three county board re-appointments. All were to serve a three year term and the board approved Robby McClung and Dennis Filler to the Development Authority and Diane Beall to the Canaan Valley PSD. There were also no new road names to approve at this time.
Moving into new business, there was the topic of a budget revision that Simmons explained the changes only affect the coal severance tax in the amount of $2,353, which approved. Three erroneous assessments were presented by LaMora and also approved unanimously. Payments were also reviewed and again, approved by all. The three Commissioners twent into an executive session to discuss personnel. Upon returning, Moore informed no decisions were made.
Prior to the closing of the meeting, Simmons commended Mayor Quattro and the City of Thomas on another wonderful Mountaineer Days event. The next commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 at 4 p.m.