By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Pastor Geohagan blessed the county commission meeting with the opening prayer followed by the students in the audience leading The Pledge of Allegiance. Commission President Diane Hinkle called the meeting to order and approved the previous meeting minutes.
Paul Pennington, new instructor of the Tucker County High School carpentry class, was in attendance with a few students seeking financial assistance for his classroom. Pennington is currently serving as a part time educator with hopes of growing interest in the class so it can be moved to a full time status. A power point presentation was made to show the projects the students have been invested in to date this school year; however, on just a $1,500 allowance from the school each year, he is looking for more help to get the program moving forward again. “I’ve went and talked to several carpenters in the area and all of them told me they’d put on another crew if they had guys to work here”, stated Pennington. “The biggest problem I’m seeing here is we’re not training our kids to stay in the county”, he said. Pennington explained they have been staying somewhat busy working on projects for those who are providing materials for a project, but since they can’t charge labor it’s not making any money for the class. “My goal is to get back to building houses and auctioning them off”, he continued. They are constructing and selling picnic tables and each make about a $25 profit. Pennington has applied for grants from other sources as well. Commissioner Lowell Moore suggests reaching out to local contractors for donations, while Hinkle recommended going to the Board of Education and developing a budget plan to be better equipped in demonstrating the needs of the program.
Mark Smith, a Tucker County resident who recently relocated from Maryland was seeking out information regarding the EMS fee. Smith suggests readdressing the manner in which it is collected, such as including it on their personal property tax and then it can be written off on their income tax. Moore replied, “In the beginning we did ask the Sheriff’s Office to include it on the taxes and they would not participate do to the liability of that going through their office”. Commissioner Patrick Darlington explained they could add it to the tax ticket; however, you cannot adjust the county tax rate because that is set forth by Charleston. Smith reiterated he is all for paying the fee; he just wants the way it is charged and collected to be reconsidered as well as harsher repercussions for those who are not paying. “We will check into that”, Moore assured and Hinkle encouraged Smith to attend the work sessions to voice his concerns.
Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy and City Administrator Jason Myers came to the commission with concerns about Wamsley Run. According to Myers, there are six houses with approximately fifteen people that would benefit from restoring natural water flow to the area that was redirected due to storm sediment and debris. “Channels should be about six feet deep and they’re about two feet deep”, Myers stated. This results in constant water issues for these families. The city has devoted $5,000 of their Rainy Day Fund and is asking the commission to match their contribution. In return Myers offered assistance from the city on the Leadmine project in terms of labor and equipment. Hinkle mentioned confusion as to how the Soil Conservation Agency denied assistance to them on the Leadmine project; however they were on board to assist with the city on Wamsley Run. Moore will be addressing this question all the commissioners are wondering. The commissioners could not respond on this request at this time, however Moore said, “We will definitely consider this”.
Agenda called for Elected Officials Report which brought County Clerk Sherry Simmons to the floor. Simmons addressed the group on the conclusion of the election with a heartfelt thank you to the “Election Army” who made the processes run so smoothly. She commented that this was one of the top voter turn outs in the county. Simmons continued with an explanation of a canvass of votes. “Many voters believe that the election results they see on television on election night are the final results. In fact, the outcome of the election is not official until the completion of the canvass of votes and certification of results, which was scheduled on November 13”, she explained. “The purpose of the canvass is to account for every ballot cast and to ensure that each valid vote is included in the official results”, Simmons said, which includes absentee, early voting, Election Day, provisional, and uninformed and overseas ballots. This canvass ensures the completeness and accuracy before certifying the election. Simmons also provided some statistics in reference to this election. “Tucker County has 5,648 active and inactive voter registrations and we had 3,243 ballots cast, giving us a 57.42% voter turnout”, she concluded.
Joel Goughnour, County Administrator, reported they received a $100,000 grant to finish the sprinkler and fire alarm system in the court house. “EMS funds to date are $232,685.01”, he reported as well as the rescheduling of the Ambulance Authority meeting. Hinkle congratulated Goughnour on his hard work on the grants he has secured to aid in the maintenance and upgrades to the courthouse and facilities.
Brett Ware, 911 Director, addressed the commissioners with the incoming call logs through the 911 center. “For the month of October we had a total of four hundred and fifty five requests for service”, Ware reported. Those calls included hang ups, the need for EMS, the fire department, police, and some that did not require a response. Ware noted it is common to see an increase in fire department calls due to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors going off due to homeowners turning on their heaters for the first time. He also addressed the importance of checking the functionality of all residential alarms and putting fresh batteries in them for the upcoming winter season. Ware also briefed the commissioners on the status of upgrading the software system within the 911 agency. The cut live date is still set for February 25 and a local individual is working diligently on the county maps making sure they are up to date and accurate. The 911 has been advertising for a part time position as well as a full time position only open to internal bids. Ware requested to speak with the commissioners regarding the applicants in an executive session. He also sent out a public service announcement to be aware of the weather changes upon us and to use caution as they have already been dispatched to accidents involving black ice. As far as the Office of Emergency Management, Ware reported that Patrick Gray and Kevin White were both attending training and could not be present at the commission meeting.
Dennis Filler, county planner, came forward with copies of an application for a preliminary permit for a project known as the Big Run Pump Storage Hydro Project. “This was an application which was made to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission”, Filler explained. “What this is for is to study the potential of construction of two, twelve hundred acre size reservoirs with a drop elevation between those reservoirs of eleven hundred feet”, he continued. The goal is to release water from the upper reservoir through approximately twelve foot diameter pipes a span of around six thousand feet to the lower reservoir during low energy times to generate power, which is estimated to produce approximately a giga-watt of energy to be put into the grid. This will be a multiyear study that will take place prior to any construction preparation. “Is this a residential area”, questioned Hinkle, to which Filler replied it is mostly National Forest. The study phase alone is expected to last through 2023 for this project. Moore responded, “It will take us a while to approve this”. There will be a separate article focusing solely on this project in The Parsons Advocate in the next couple weeks.
Moving on, there were no correspondences and an approval for Matt Quattro to serve on the Development Authority as well as Cindy Kolsun to be appointed to the Historic Landmark Commission. Savannah Hull Wilkins will also be joining the Historic Landmark Commission in an advisory capacity, and the order for new road signs is being placed as soon as they get the last few assigned so to pay just one shipping charge.
Under new business, there was a request for a new bank account for Community Correction, which was approved. The local economic grant resolution for $14,400, less than prior years, approved unanimously, and all erroneous assessments were approved with the exception of number thirty eight for further explanation. Payments were approved as presented and the commissioners entered into executive session. After approximately ten minutes, the commissioners returned and announced Michael Simmons would be hired part time at the 911 center, and Karla Mick will be moved from part time to full time.
The commissioner reports were last on the agenda and the commissioners didn’t have a lot to report on. Darlington announced the Parks and Recreation Board have completed the prep work for the 40×80 multipurpose building to be delivered on December 12. Hinkle announced she will be out of town and wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. The next meeting of the county commission will be on Wednesday, December 19 at 9 a.m. in the Tucker County court house.