By Stephen Smoot
Last Tuesday, the Pendleton County Commission and other county officials met to discuss
solutions to a serious problem at the community building in Franklin, as well as potential sources
of grants and other funding for projects.
During a recent storm that left Franklin without power for three hours, the fire department tried
to open the doors with no working generator to provide power. For 20 minutes, several struggled
to push the door open so that the fire truck could exit.
Until recently, firefighters could manually open the door with little trouble. The new door, as
the emergency services coordinator Rick Gillespie explained, has added insulation and glass,
making it three times heavier than the doors used before they were replaced.
Commissioners discussed options on how to correct this potentially serious problem with
emergency services officials, including Kelly Hartman from the Franklin Volunteer Fire
The first proposal suggested repairing the current generator, a military surplus diesel that has
been broken for three to four years. While officials expressed confidence that they could obtain
parts for repair, others saw that as a short term solution only. Hartman worried that “it works
well in the winter, but in summertime with air conditioning on, it has all the load on it at once”
when it first starts. That could lead to the repaired generator breaking down.
Additionally, the generator in place is well past its expected service life. Gene McConnell,
Pendleton County Commission President, commented that “military surplus is typically junk.”
A second option explored lay in the purchase of a new generator. The cost of one that would
fill the needs of the department would run approximately $14,000. Gillespie noted that they
could offer “several reasons why the building needs an operable generator” and that multiple
efforts to secure grant funding to pay for one had not succeeded.
Commissioners also discussed installing a manual chain system that firefighters could easily
operate when necessary. They expressed surprise that one had not been included in the door’s
Next, County Clerk Elise White discussed applying for a Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
grant to purchase electronic poll books. As White explains, the proposed system could help poll
workers to more easily look up registered voters and their precincts during elections. She noted
that this would especially help to expedite the process during primaries which use multiple
When asked by McConnell if it would improve efficiency, White described how the new
system would cut printing costs and reduce the need to store hard copy materials. She said that
the system would “save weeks of work” through its ability to automatically transfer information.
McConnell responded by saying, “If it improves the process, then I am all for it.”
White stated that the HAVA grant would cover 85% of the nearly $26,000 cost of purchasing
electronic poll books.
The final major topic of discussion centered on Pendleton County’s allocation of Title III funds
from the federal government. Because nearly one third of Pendleton County’s lands are in
federal hands, the county since 2001 has received federal assistance from Title III in maintaining
local government infrastructure.
Title III is a separate program from “Payment In Lieu of Taxes,” or PILT funds. The federal
government pays out PILT money to partially replace what the county would have collected as
taxes from private landowners. Unlike Title III, it has no restrictions on how the county might
spend the money.
McConnell explained that Title III money is “very beneficial, paying for equipment for the fire
and sheriff’s department.” Gillespie added that it also helps to defer the cost of searches in the
Recently, the specifications on how to spend the money were expanded to include broadband.
Commissioners agreed to raise the allocation percentage request from 15 to 20 percent.
Out of several counties in West Virginia eligible for Title III funds, only Pendleton currently
Also notable on the agenda, commissioners agreed to convert county owned bank certificates
of deposit from those of lower interest to those with a higher interest rate. The commissioners
confirmed that the money earned from higher interest rates would much more than make up for
any penalty for early withdrawal.