By Stephen Smoot
The Pendleton County Commission opened its first meeting of the 10th month of 2023 with a prayer by Roger Dahmer, commissioner, who said, “We thank you, Lord, for your guidance in all things we do.”
Karen Pitsenbarger, county administrator, opened with the maintenance report. She asked the commissioners if any of them had examined the exterior of the Riverton community building to see if it required cleaning. They had not, but Carl Hevener and Jimmie Bennett stated that they would look at it this week.
She then shared the health department’s need for a new HVAC system. The county commission approved $6,900 to replace it.
Finally, Pitsenbarger discussed the new flooring for the rescue squad bay. After looking at samples of potential new flooring to be placed in the squad bay, it was determined that the floor could be repaired with five gallons of fleck-style paint. The commissioners approved the painting of the floor. She also reported that the ramp on the courthouse “is pretty much finished,” with one railing left to install.
One of the major points of discussion for the second consecutive meeting lay in addressing an issue with payment of county real estate taxes. If taxpayers currently send in checks written in the wrong amount, legally the county tax office must return the checks and ask for a check written in the proper amount.
Confusingly, the format required in the statement by the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office gives a “half year tax” number above a sentence that reads “do not pay this amount.” Many simply write the check for the amount at the top of the form rather than looking at the payment schedules indicated in the middle and bottom.
Morgan Basagic, county tax deputy, confirmed that “the state auditor requires us to have that.” Pitsenbarger posed the question that if the county paid to print the document, could it not “black out” the confusing information. April Mallow, Pendleton County prosecuting attorney, replied that she would have to ask the state auditor’s office.
Hevener stated that he had asked other regional county commissioners, including Bob Hott of Hampshire County, what they do. While some other counties will “eat” up to five dollars under while keeping without crediting up to five dollars over, Hampshire does that up to a single dollar because, as Hevener stated, “It is not worth the postage” to send the letter.
The county commissioners approved the dollar discrepancy rule for next year. Basagic agreed to keep track of discrepancies between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 2024. In a year, the county commission will examine the numbers and revisit the policy, if needed.
During the meeting, the county commission went into executive session. After closing it, they voted to approve a 12-hour shift for telecommunicators for the first full pay period of 2024. They also approved a holiday pay adjustment related to the new policy.
Laura Brown, executive director of the Seneca Rocks Regional Development Authority, stated that recently she placed an application for tower funding at Smoke Hole and Sugar Grove. Although the window for application was very short (a week and a half), unpublicized, and did not attract many applicants, Brown got the application submitted.
Rick Gillespie, Pendleton County Emergency Services Coordinator, also shared news about a potential new tower for Pendleton County. He stated that he would apply for funds from the State Tower Assistance program and that AT&T and T Mobile have already made verbal agreements to locate on it. Gillespie cautioned the commission, saying that verbals do not represent ironclad agreements, but that they are important to those making the determination.
Gillespie said he wished to negotiate a five-year lease with the owner of the preferred site and, if the tower is put in place, a 50-year lease that would last for the entire operational life of the tower would be negotiated. He added that “it should light up U.S. 33 for a considerable distance and also parts of West Virginia 28.”