Paw Paw council hears complaints from group
Calls for resignations and concerns about underage drinking, ATV noise and the legality of a trailer owned by a town official were voiced at the September 4 meeting of the Paw Paw Town Council.
Raising these and other issues were Sandy Zell, Genny Miller and Kenneth Kerns, all of whom live near Paw Paw but outside the town limits.
Paw Paw resident B. C. Braithwaite was with the group, but was told he couldn't address council since he was not on the agenda.
Before the meeting, Braithwaite complained about public intoxication, drugs and fighting at apartments in town, as well as trash on Borderline grounds and vehicles with no tags or registration.
Sandy Zell told council that one youth was given a ticket for underage drinking, which was dismissed, while another got community service for the same offense.
Both youths were issued citations and released to their parents, said Paw Paw Police Chief Brian Sites. He said it was the first offense for each.
Town personnel said it wasn't the first offense for the boy who wasn't offered community service and that he never responded to the citation.
The town has the option of allowing first offenders to work off their sentence by community service, said Town Recorder Julie Kidwell.
Kidwell said she and Mayor Kenneth Crites discussed the community service for the one boy. Kidwell oversaw his 20 hours of community work.
A clerical error
Town clerk Marlana Ryan said later she wrote "dismissed" on the ticket and it was an error. The boy's community service had been completed and she thought that was how it was handled. Ryan is still in training for her position.
Chief Sites said he wasn't even aware that there was a community service program in Paw Paw. He asked about program supervision and documentation.
Sites thought he should sign off on the community service after it was completed.
Sites also felt that someone unrelated to the town's court system should be overseeing the sentence. Kidwell was also municipal judge, but has since stepped down.
At the meeting, town council appointed Gina Brack as municipal judge, effective as soon as she takes the necessary classes.
"We all wear two or three hats here," said Brack, who works in town hall.
Sites said he continues to investigate an August 31 incident where he found two minors out after curfew with alcohol on their breath. Both were released to their parents.
Resignations asked for
During the meeting, Kenneth Kerns told Kidwell that she should resign. Mayor Crites advised the group that he wasn't going to let the meeting become a personal attack on Kidwell.
Kidwell has done a lot for the town, Crites said.
The mayor and Councilman Ed Ridgeway told the group that many of their concerns were police issues and they needed to take them up with the police.
"We're not cops," Ridgeway said.
Crites said after the meeting that they also sought his resignation. He has been mayor of Paw Paw since July 1.
"I don't quit," Crites said.
Responding to specific issues, Crites said he has made phone calls about the problems at apartments in town with no positive response. He suggested surprise inspections.
Borderline's parent company Trex gave Borderline a deadline of December 31 to clean up their grounds, according to a letter Trex sent to town officials. Trex buys the plastic stored in Paw Paw.
Sites said he would like to see another full-time police officer to cover the days when he's off duty.
Two officers, who are also county deputies, work 8-to-16 hours a week to provide additional police coverage, Crites said.
The town has limited revenue and hopes to find grants to pay for another full-time police officer for 24-7 coverage, Crites said.
It's hard for a little town without a lot of businesses, said Councilman Ridgeway.
Ridgeway said he hadn't heard complaints from townspeople about noise or underage drinking. He sometimes hears noise from ATVs but doesn't consider it excessive.
One resident said he hears an ATV at 2 or 3 a.m., which Ridgeway said is a problem.
The police fine riders if they catch them, but getting them in the act is difficult. It's a problem in rural counties everywhere, Ridgeway said.
The group also questioned whether a doublewide trailer home owned by Town Recorder Kidwell, the former mayor, was in compliance with town building regulations.
Crites said town bylaws aren't clear on what kind of foundation is needed for a trailer to be considered a home.
The trailer has a skirt around it, and the assessor considers it a home for assessment purposes.
Kidwell was issued a deed for it. If the trailer was considered a mobile unit, she would have a title for it instead, Crites said.
Bill Hayes was asked to look into building codes and work on the definition of a foundation, Crites said.
There are five other homes like Kidwell's within town limits and all applied for building permits, said Brack.
The existing ordinance regarding house trailers and mobile homes was written in 1978. The town doesn't have an ordinance that applies to pre-fabricated or modular homes that require a foundation.
Asked about concerns over the safety of the Private Ray Stotler Bridge on Winchester Street, town officials said they had alerted the W. Va. Division of Highways.
There had been reports that the bridge was sinking on one end.
Road crews put blacktop patching on the bridge. Additional work is a decision for state highway engineers, Crites said.
Crites said they are continuing to try to attract more business in Paw Paw. The mayor wants Paw Paw to be a nice place for people to retire to, to live in and to have their children grow up.
Crites said he is available by appointment on Friday mornings from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. to discuss citizen concerns and complaints.