By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the Pendleton County Commission opened with an attempt to listen to a presentation given to the Hardy County Commission by a legal representative of the West Virginia Farm Bureau concerning HB 3313.
The equipment could not pick up the presentation given. House Bill 3313, according to the State Legislature website restrains “county commissions from imposing rules and regulations on farmers beyond what is already prescribed through state statute.” According to the West Virginia Farm Bureau, that organization supports HB 3313. It has passed the full house and is now in front of the Senate Government Organization committee.
After a few minutes, Carl Hevener, county commission president, said, “I don’t think there’s any use to waste time on it,” and the body commenced its work.
Commissioner Roger Dahmer led the commission in prayer, saying “we pray that You’ll be here and help us, Lord.”
In the opening minutes, Karen Pitsenbarger reported the successful completion of the installment of replacement lights at the rescue squad building.
Mike Alt then issued a report on upcoming needs of the Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department. Alt described a “unique situation” that confronted the department earlier this winter. During the cold snap, the area had no power for 24 hours. No facility in the area enjoyed generator backup, although both the fire hall and that training center are designated disaster shelters.
A generator alone will not solve the issue, however. Alt said that “we inherited old equipment.” The power company would have to install $27,000 worth of equipment, including replacement of old and deteriorating poles. They must also upgrade their system to accommodate higher levels of power.
Hevener then stepped in, suggesting “we were taking this system here to the community building,” but then decided that the generator at the courthouse would not be a good fit there. The commission offered the generator to Upper Tract VFD.
Rick Gillespie, Pendleton County emergency services coordinator, urged “you’ve got to wire it accordingly.”
Alt responded, “that will cut our costs way down,” and added that it might be a couple of months before the poles and equipment are ready for the generator. He then related that the rescue squad’s tactical skills team needed new equipment. Regulations and other requirements set the shelf life of certain emergency equipment at 10 years; much of the equipment is approaching that cut off.
Gillespie suggested that “I’d think Title II could work for that.” Title II funds help to pay for emergency equipment that would be mostly or entirely used on federal lands, such as the national forest. Alt confirmed that the equipment is mostly used for national forest calls.
Hevener told Alt, “We’ll look into it.”
Commissioners heard from citizens concerned about the potential sale of WELD, a station based in Fisher, but that serves much of the Potomac Highlands, including Pendleton County. They shared information about the potential buyers and a community meeting on March 9. Hevener replied that Chip Combs of WELD reached out to the Pendleton County Commission.
While the community has raised $50,000 to help to keep ownership local, the station has $700,000 in debt. Gillespie voiced concerns over the future of emergency communications if the station went to outside hands or disappeared altogether.
The commission also agreed to provide letters of support for congressional funding of projects at the Franklin Innovation Center and Pendleton County Industrial Park, a new hot and cold food truck for Pendleton County Senior and Family Services, and a state arts grant for Warner’s Drive-In.