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Highlights from Wednesday’s County Commission Meeting, 12/11/2019

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

WELCH, WV – The McDowell County Commission discussed the following at Wednesday’s meeting. 

Replacement Hire

Sheriff Martin West approached the Commission, seeking to hire Dalton Martin to replace the position recently left vacant by Tim Vineyard’s retirement. 

“He’s already academy trained,” said West. “We’re facing another hardship, one Deputy has been off for over a year for medical reasons. There’s another deputy going off to academy on January 6th so we’re short handed.”

Commissioners Michael Brooks and Cecil Patterson approved the hire, welcoming Martin aboard. 

Holding Facility Manager

To ease the burden on County Administrator Jennifer Wimmer, Patterson said the Commission felt someone in-house should manage the Holding Unit facility. 

“We’d like to entertain a motion for Tina Blackburn to be moved to the Holding Unit Manager,” said Patterson.

It was approved. 

Ashland Resort Extension 

The Commission received a permit on the upcoming water and sewer AML project in Ashland. 

“That should increase their ability to house more people and more hotel/motel taxes as well,” said Patterson. 

“As well as providing services to the community in general as well,” said Jason Roberts of Region 1 Planning & Development Council. “I think it’s the whole area and this was funding through an economic pilot project through AML. It was only the 2nd or 3rd year they’d done it, but the County was lucky enough to secure the funding.”

Broadband Engineering Contract

Commissioners also approved and signed the engineering contract for the Bullcreek/Isaban Broadband Project. 

“The contract with the engineer,” said Roberts. “The County was fortunate enough to receive $630,000 in HUD CBDG funding for broadband buildout in that area. It plans to serve approximately 420 residents. 

During the selection process, Thompson-Litten Engineering were chosen. 

“We just need you to sign now and they’ll begin designing the buildout and get the project moving,” said Roberts. “No one has wasted any time. The County has been very fast in moving along through the steps so it’s a good windfall for you guys.”

It was approved. 

Old Cruiser Bids

“Next on the agenda, the Sheriff would like to bid three cruisers,” said Patterson. 

“I know these are owned by the Commission, but where we spent so much money from our Concealed Weapons class fund while the budget was tight, we’d like to at least get half of our money back,” said West. “We’re starting the bids at 2,000. Some of them have high mileage on them, but people we’ve sold them to in the past have been satisfied with them.”

The Commission approved the request.  

PSD Board Reappointment

Gary Davis was reappointed to the McDowell County Public Service District Board, having served as a member for years according to the Commission.

Heat in the Annex

The Commission also approved a heat pump installation for the Courthouse Annex building. 

“It’s an old heat pump that has given us a fit,” said Patterson. “It’s approximately $8,700 dollars that can be paid out of the infrastructure money.”

It was approved. 

LEPC Members

Teresa VanDyke, 911 Center Director, approached the Commission about updated the members of the LEPC Board. 

LEPC requested to remove Billy Prater and add Rusty Wyatt. Welch Community Hospital wishes to add Lynn Lester and keep Randy Blankenship and Mark Simpson while State Police requested to replace Sgt. Stinson, who has been transferred, with Sgt. Workman. 

It was approved. 

Lease Agreements with AT&T

“You had already voted to accept an agreement on the Welch Tower, this is just to confirm that,” said VanDyke. “The windmill gap tower is allowing us to move forward. It’s a new lease.” 

It was approved. 

Towing Troubles

Before the meeting closed, the Commission wanted to discuss recent accidents that left highways closed for hours with VanDyke. 

“I’ve heard they’re requesting wreck services out of Mercer, Buckhannon, or Tazewell County,” said Patterson. “If someone is sitting on the side of the road, I don’t care who they call, but not during a wreck.”

“The County Commission sets the policy and revisits it every year or so according to State Code,” said VanDyke. “What we’ve done in the past is during an accident, law enforcement response tells us who they want.”

“Mr. Legato came by the office and I showed him on numerous calls that we went with the law enforcement’s request,” said VanDyke. “Only during wrecks where a wrecker service is needed for extradition, like a car over a mountainside, will we override and go with the closest.”

“I think anything that comes through in 911 should get the closest, in my opinion,” said VanDyke. 

“We talked about this several months ago and I feel we should not be calling any out of County wrecker service,” said Brooks. “I think we need to take care of our local vendors that are licensed, insured and paying their taxes in the County. We’ve got five wrecker services in our County and that’s who we need to be using.”

Rocko Legato had approached Sheriff West and VanDyke recently about the issue, seeing wrecks in his service area get handled by services that were in other counties. 

“I’ve told Boomer to relay to the Deputies to always request the closest service,” said West. “The accident on Premier Mountain held traffic up for two hours, but it was a bad accident. I too, feel like we should keep it in the County.”

“People complain that we don’t have resources in the County, but we often don’t use what we do have,” said Brooks. 

“Without looking at specific codes, I don’t see why we couldn’t create a policy that whoever is closest would be the company you use,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brittany Puckett. 

“And qualified,” added Patterson. “If its a coal truck in Caretta, even though Rocko isn’t the closest, he’s the only one equipped to handle it.”

“I agree with that,” said VanDyke. 

“Until we get that policy in effect, can you instruct your employees to call the nearest service in the county,” asked Patterson. 

“I’ll get with you and we’ll work on that,” said VanDyke. 

Legato was also present at the meeting. 

“It’ll be 44 years in February and this is the worst I’ve ever seen. We have our own areas, it’s always been like that, split all across the County. If someone wrecks all the way across the County, they should not have to wait on me to get there,” said Legato. “After the two hours delay in Premier, they had a wreck the next week that also blocked the road for two hours, waiting on a wrecker out of Tazewell, Virginia.”

“When it comes to that, the road is blocked, we’re going to call our closest service now,” said Brooks.