Commission hopes state will forgive courthouse debt
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson discussed the January 13 economic development roundtable in Martinsburg at the Thursday, January 20 meeting of the Morgan County Commission.
Hutchinson said she asked Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin if he would consider forgiving the $5 million courthouse debt.
When Tomblin alluded to the fact the old courthouse was under-insured, Hutchinson said she replied: “The people that were sitting on the commission at the time the disaster occurred are no longer there. Therefore, why are we casting a shadow across our citizens for the next 35 years to pay for that?”
Tomblin told the commissioners that he would be willing to discuss options with them to reduce or eliminate the debt, she said.
The commissioners agreed to send a letter proposing a follow-up meeting in Charleston.
$80,000 for courthouse
Grant Assistant Carol York gave the commissioners a resolution to sign approving a $80,000 West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement grant.
The state grant is the third in a five-year program to help pay costs associated with the new courthouse.
The commissioners reappointed Susan Webster, Betsy Heath, Jeanne Mozier and Jerry McGraw to the Morgan County Economic Development Authority for three-year terms.
They did not reappoint John Petersen to the board because he attended only three of the eight meetings held in 2010.
“He a good person and I think that if he had time to be on EDA and be at the meetings, he would be a very good contributor,” Hutchinson said. “Right now it appears to me that his schedule does not allow him to be at the meetings.”
The commissioners decided to interview Jerry Berman and Frank Subasic for EDA positions.
The commissioners were dismayed to learn after a recent fire marshal inspection that they will have to spend additional funds to tie the fire alarm system in the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department (the old Magistrate Court offices) to the fire alarm system in the courthouse.
County Administrator Jody McClintock gave commissioners the bad news along with a $9,000 quote for the work from courthouse electrical contractor LDH Electrical.
Hutchinson said she was annoyed that Chesapeake Sprinkler, the project contractor, didn’t make commissioners aware of the alarm issue during construction.
The commissioners decided they had no choice but to approve the expenditure.
Each commissioner nominated a person to receive the Morgan County Commission’s first Patriot Awards. The idea was suggested by Gerald Chaskes several years ago.
Award recipients are Ruthie Cain, nominated by Commissioner Stacy Dugan; Kim Mason, nominated by Commissioner Brad Close; and Audrey Morris, nominated by Commissioner Hutchinson.
Dugan said Cain has been active for 45 years in the Mahnes Chapel Methodist Church and works as a volunteer at the Rescue Squad Auxiliary Thrift Shop.
Close said Mason was active in the Toys for Tots campaign, the Apple Butter Festival and other community activities.
Hutchinson praised Morris for her work at Starting Points and throughout the community.
The three will be honored at the February 3 commission meeting. They will receive a pin and certificate and have their names engraved on a plaque in the courthouse lobby.
Parking lot buffer
Larry Lower of the Town Streetscape Committee and Kate Lehman of Warm Springs Watershed Association presented the commissioners with an idea to create a riparian buffer between the county parking lot and the retaining wall on Warm Springs Run next to the lot.
Lower said a small part of the parking lot along the wall was left unpaved. The Streetscape Committee eventually wants to build a path for the public along the stream through town. He recommended landscaping the area to help preserve it as green space.
Lehman said a riparian buffer of trees, grass and shrubs would prevent some of the runoff from the lot entering the stream and affecting aquatic life.
Lower said the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District is investigating if the state would share the $5,000 cost.
The project won’t be done until they evaluate what space is needed for maintenance equipment to access the geothermal system’s intake and discharge pipes, Lower said.
He added that the area could be paved with the type of bricks that have holes in them to allow grass to grow through, and still provide drainage and a hard surface for the maintenance equipment.
Lower and Lehman said they have talked to the owner of the parking lot and she is on board with the idea.
The commissioners had no problem with the project.
Wage & Review Board
Morgan County Prosecutor Debra McLaughlin gave the commissioners a draft of the proposed revised employee handbook that the county’s Wage & Review Board has been working on.
She said employee job descriptions were completed and a format agreed upon for performance reviews.
The board recommended that performance reviews be done in January, except for the sheriff’s employees who are reviewed twice a year.
She said the board recommends doing away with the existing pay scale since “it does not appear to be applied uniformly.”
After some debate on the handbook and pay scales, the commissioners decided more discussion was necessary, but McLaughlin had to leave because she was due in court.
The commissioners approved a proclamation submitted by EDA Director Bill Clark proclaiming Ground Hog Day, February 2, as the first anniversary of the Eastern Panhandle Trailblazers and the birthday of the Eastern Panhandle Recreational Trail.
The Trailblazer group is working on an uninterrupted pathway for walking, running and bicycling from Harpers Ferry to Berkeley Springs via Ranson, Martinsburg and Shepherdstown.
Board of Equalization dates
The commissioners revised their schedule of Board of Equalization meetings for homeowners to contest property taxes. Meetings are now set for:
Tuesday, February 1, 10 a.m.–noon; Thursday, February 3, 5 p.m.–7 p.m; Wednesday, February 9, 10 a.m.-noon; Friday, February 11, 10 a.m.-noon; Wednesday, February 16, in Paw Paw, 3 p.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, February 19, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.