Town asked to reconsider role with parks
The Town of Bath’s recent request to drop membership on the Morgan County Parks & Recreation board is still up for discussion, said town council members last week.
Mayor Susan Webster attended a meeting with parks officials, who wanted to assure town officials that their representatives on the board had full legal liability coverage.
Legal issues were the main source of concern for town officials, and motivated them to distance themselves from the nine-member board, which also includes members from the county commission and school board.
Parks members also provided the town with a list of suggested appointees, since finding citizens to fill town slots on the board had been a problem.
“The town has brought a lot to Parks & Rec. We’d like to continue that. Not just funds, but new ideas. We need the input from the town about what needs to be done,” Bruce Beadenkopf told town council at their December 7 meeting.
Webster also said the organizational laws of the board say the group can’t reassign town slots on the board until the end of June, even if the town drops off the board.
Councilman Scott Merki said he was glad to hear there was a list of people willing to take on the volunteer slots.
“We can think about it,” said Councilman David Crosby.
The issue did not come to a vote, but may reappear on future agendas.
Facing big expenses
Bids for a billing software upgrade took town officials by surprise. Only one bidder – Appalachian Software of Scott’s Depot – made a proposal to replace the town’s computer billing system. The price tag for a new server, software, installation and training came in around $50,000.
Representatives from the company attended the bid opening, and said their software is custom-designed for West Virginia utilities, which makes regular reporting to the state’s utility agency much simpler. They estimated it could take up to two months to fully convert the current billing system to the new software.
Water Works Chief Operator Terry Largent said he thinks the billing system, which the water company will partially fund, will save the town money in the end.
Council put off making a decision on the change, pending more information from the software company and further council discussion.
“Obviously we like this, but how are we going to pay for it with our other emergency expenditures?” said Webster.
Councilman and finance chairman David Crosby withdrew his motion to award the bid to Appalachian Software, citing a need to study the town’s finances.
The Water Works is facing such another big expense – a roof replacement on the water filtration plant on Wilkes Street.
Largent sought bids for the work, asking contractors to bid on installing a shingle roof or a metal roof. Bids ranged from $18,000 to $48,000. Estimates also included adding more ventilation to the building to avoid high concentrations of moisture inside – one possible source of the roofing failure.
Town officials planned to hold a special meeting to award a bid after seeking more detailed information about warranties and scope of work from various contractors.
A new heating system will be on the horizon for the filtration plant, Largent told council. Webster proposed that council look into a geothermal heating system, referencing a recent Morgan Messenger article reporting on the area’s special geothermal properties. She said there may be grants out there to help fund such a system.
Travel Berkeley Springs board member Stephanie Rebant once again urged the town council to collect the hotel/motel tax from lodging establishments in town. Rebant said November’s disbursement to TBS and local groups clearly showed that one major hotel was still not paying out the tax it was collecting from its guests.
She said that hotel hadn’t made any headway in paying down its backlog of more than a year’s worth of overdue taxes. Town clerk Margie Allgyer wasn’t at the meeting to report on the status of payments.
“It’s affecting the operation of TBS and our ability to pay our employee,” she said.
Mayor Susan Webster said she would talk with Police Chief Craig Pearrell again about actively enforcing the town’s law. She said she’d also approach town attorney Richard Gay about how to proceed with collections or legal action. Failing to turn over the tax to the town is a misdemeanor.
We ask that you also make sure a plan is in process so this doesn’t happen again. And if money comes in, consider making a monthly disbursements instead of quarterly,” Rebant said.
Webster agreed to consider that change.
In other business, town officials approved a working agreement with County Planner Alma Gorse, which allows Gorse to act as the town’s Floodplain Officer. That means any building permits for work proposed in a floodplain inside the town limits will be reviewed by Gorse. The county is not charging for her services. She performs the same function for the Town of Paw Paw.
Cemetery board member Irene Hedrick reported that the stone pillar holding the gate at the entrance to Greenway Cemetery has broken
further. Last month, the cemetery board closed that entrance, fearing the gate could fall on visitors or their vehicles. Hedrick reported that someone hit the gate with their car, causing the hinges to break away from the pillar.
Council signed off on an application by Temptations, Too to seek a state license to sell off-premise wine from its North Washington Street bakery.
Historic landmarks board member Nancy Harvey received permission from the town for the state highway department to post historical walking tour signs along U.S. 522 and Route 9. Harvey said the signs will direct visitors to the Bath Historic District. Individual signs for 50 historic homes will be posted sometime in spring, noting the construction date of the homes.