Hutchinson shares thoughts on first year in office
County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson felt her first year as a Morgan County Commissioner has been challenging and a learning experience.
There was a learning curve involved in assuming the duties and responsibilities, she said.
Hutchinson said she knew there would be a lot of time invested in the job, but she
didn't realize how extensive it would be. The courthouse fire also increased the time commitment, she said.
Hutchinson doesn't think people realize the amount of time that is involved in being a commissioner. Many think there are just two commission meetings monthly and that's all the commissioners do, she said.
But Hutchinson sits on seven county boards and attends their meetings. There are luncheon and dinner meetings, plus trips to Charleston and Washington to seek courthouse funding.
Hutchinson tries to go to as many planning commission and hospital board meetings as possible and also to Oasis Partnership board meetings. She feels the Oasis Partnership is important because there are youth problems here. We have the same problems as cities do, just on a different scale, she said.
She tries to attend community events and feels it's important to get out and hear what people are concerned about and whether they think the commission is doing the right thing.
She said she had also no idea how many volunteer opportunities there were in the community. She signed up for the PASS program and wants the commission to encourage county employees to get involved in the program.
Hutchinson spends hours every day answering e-mails and phone calls and doing research on commission issues and West Virginia Code. She said being a commissioner is hard unless a person is self-employed.
Because her job as a commissioner needed flexible hours to accommodate meetings, Hutchinson resigned as a paralegal with Trump & Trump to concentrate on being a commissioner. The move has given her time to focus on the issues, she said.
Hutchinson felt the commission's enactment of the noise ordinance was a good decision. She also was proud to champion for animals and try to find ways to subsidize a spay/neuter program.
That's the only way we can get a handle on it. It comes to a point where you don't have anywhere to put them, she said of stray animals.
Hutchinson felt doing a review of board appointment procedures was also a positive step. Keeping focus on the rules, giving new people a chance to participate and determining if current board members are still interested in serving are important, she said.
She felt good about Barbara Tudor's presentation on zoning. Hutchinson would like to see more discussion on land use and zoning. Some people are meeting in discussion groups about zoning around the county, she said.
She would like some of the zoning discussion group representatives and people from other counties be put on the commissioners' agenda to make presentations about zoning.
She felt zoning had gotten pushed back because of the courthouse funding issue. She doesn't want to see overdevelopment in Morgan County and feels it is a good time to get something in place.
Hutchinson said one of her most difficult decisions was the tax increase the commission enacted this spring. She said she really struggled with it. The ambulance fee was also a hard decision. Hutchinson knows people are having trouble making ends meet.
A personal goal for Hutchinson was helping the Planning Commission with amendments to the subdivision ordinance. These included addressing wells and septic systems in the floodplain, preparing buffers and adding cluster development.
The amendments will eventually come to the county commissioners, who will hold a public hearing, she said.
Another of her goals is to become very knowledgeable about the county budget.
You can have all the best ideas in the world, but if there's no money, it's not going anywhere, she said.
As for 2008, Hutchinson wants to find courthouse finding that won't be a strain for the county to pay back. She feels people are maxed out financially right now.
Hutchinson said we may be looking at the real possibility of a recession. Building permits and new housing starts for the tri-county area are half the number of what they were last year, she said. It could impact the county budget.
Hutchinson doesn't support a bond issue or tax increase to
pay for the courthouse. She believes Commissioners Glen Stotler and Tommy Swaim are like minded.
Hutchinson would like to see the commission have long-term and short-term goals.
The skate park for the kids should be a short-term goal. She would like to see one in her lifetime. Her kids talked about having one when they were 14 or 15 and they're now in their1'30s, she said.
She would also like to see more people come before the commissioners. She thinks people are unaware that they have the option to come in and talk to the commissioners or make a presentation.
Hutchinson felt she has a good working relationship with the other commissioners. She said she listens to her gut feelings and stands up if she feels something is wrong.
She is afraid she may have disappointed some people who felt she should have been
more aggressive during the past year.
Hutchinson said she wasn't going to stand up and make a fuss at every meeting with no reason. She said she will speak up if she feels the commission is going in the wrong direction.
Hutchinson said she will be speaking up more. It will be an interesting year, she said.