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Highlights from Wednesday’s County Commission Meeting

By Derek Tyson,
The Welch News Editor

WELCH, W.Va. – The McDowell County Commission held their first regular meeting in September, discussing some of the following:

Mike Lushbaugh, Food Service Director at Stevens Correctional Center, approached the Commission about changing the prison’s Aramark service contract to two years instead of renewing each year.

“I wanted to formalize what we informally agreed to during a meeting on the 17th of July. Ms. Wimmer and Mr. Patterson were there along with some staff from the prison,” said Lushbaugh. “This would keep the trade prices at current level, we know both the facility and us have had a hard time during this virus.”

Steven’s Correctional Facility had been affected by the Department of Corrections decision to halt all movement of prisoners within the state system, keeping them incarcerated at the Regional jails, according to Lushbaugh.  

“Within the last week, that’s changed. We did get 96 inmates from Southern Regional Jail and they’re expected to send 36-38 more after these folks get out of quarantine,” said Lushbaugh. “They’re currently under a two week quarantine. That’s going to help out.”

“We can’t go into a two year lease, encumbering future funds as a Commission,” said Commissioner Cecil Patterson. “But maybe if it’s an automatic renewal.”
 The Commission voted to table the issue until the next meeting, allowing time for the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to review.

The Commission also voted to apply for another Courthouse Facilities Improvement Grant, aiming to allow the replacement of a second round of windows in the McDowell County Courthouse.

“Actual work on the first group has not started yet,” said Patterson.

“Right, because of COVID, so we don’t know exactly how much this will be, but we want to get it in there because we don’t know how many windows they’ll be able to fix with the first round of money,” said County Administrator Jennifer Wimmer.

“That’s good, it’s definitely needed,” said Commissioner Michael Brooks.

Jimmy Gianato approached the Commission about a new Emergency Communications tower consultant position, specifically the contract detailing how the new job will function.

“You all had agreed to hire a consultant after we had the issue where we lost the grant funding for the 911 tower,” said Gianato. “I was sent a blank, generic contract. It can be rearranged however you want, or make any changes we need.”

Gianato said he felt the most important decisions were who would the Tower Consult work alongside or under and how would they report on work progress.

“Do you know what needs to be in this,” asked Patterson.

“The biggest thing is in that generic contract, the consultant reports back to the 911 Director,” said Gianato. “I don’t know if that’s what you all want.”

“I think they should report back to the Commission and you,” said Brooks. “For the day-to-day stuff.”

“How much money did we lose on that other tower grant,” asked Cody Estep.
“349,000,” said Brooks.

“Yeah, right at 350,000 dollars. I’m trying to see if we can get something done in the next few weeks,” said Gianato. “Maybe we can go to the Governor’s Office and say we lost this homeland security grant, is there any way you can help us from these other pots of money to build these two towers we need down here.”

Gianato was encouraged to work with the Prosecutor’s Office to finalize the contract.
The Town of Davy, represented by Chief of Police Donnie Perry, approached the Commission requesting the donation of vehicles currently held by the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office.

“The Davy Police Department is in need of a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The State Road does not maintain Davy Hill and the Town of Davy would appreciate if the 2005 Ford Excursion could in any way be donated to the Davy Police Department. They are also requesting a Crown Victoria due to the fact of so many breakdowns of the current vehicle,” read correspondence from the Town.  

“Is that the one you have at the Sheriff’s Office,” asked Patterson.

“Yeah, and the Crown Vic is there as well. The one we have now, we’re spending money the Town of Davy doesn’t really have right now, just to keep it on the road,” said Perry. “Maybe we could take parts from this one to fix ours, but the State Road doesn’t salt the hill. It’s hard to get a crown vic up there in the winter.”

The Commission approved the donation of the two vehicles to the Town of Davy.
In closing remarks, Commissioner Patterson spoke about COVID-19.

“Maybe this COVID thing will stop or slow down. It’s a difficult time for all us, things seem to change every day but we appreciate everything everyone is doing,” said Patterson. “It seems like the County had really held down on it. I know we had a spike there, but it seems like everyone is taking precautions and I appreciate everything everyone is doing.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, the Commission also approved the list of poll workers for the upcoming November election.