By Stephen Smoot
With the increase in structure fires and other types of emergency calls in the past months, the Pendleton County commissioners passed a resolution of appreciation for Pendleton County 911 staff as part of its regular business on Dec. 20.
The resolution passed unanimously and was signed by all three commissioners. It noted the staff’s “contribution . . . to the welfare of Pendleton’s citizens” and “acknowledges the commitment and perseverance of the E-911 staff in effecting successful outcomes even under trying conditions.”
Commissioners also took up the issue of a local floodplain ordinance. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, “once FEMA provides a community with the flood hazard information upon which floodplain management regulations are based, the community is required to adopt a floodplain management or ordinance that meets or exceeds the minimum National Flood Insurance Program requirements.”
Local governments were given a choice that Gene McConnell described as “pretty binary.” The county must adopt the ordinance provided by FEMA for the region to remain eligible for flood insurance. No adoption means no participation. No participation means no protection.
McConnell explained that “there is a process in place to address errors.” Those who feel that property was placed in the floodplain by mistake can apply for an elevation certificate. Commissioners noted that the county had seen such errors in the past. The ordinance gives the county commission the authority to place areas in the officially designated floodplain that are not there as of now, but should be.
Cases may exist, McConnell warned, where properties left untouched by the 500-year flood in 1985 may be placed in the 100-year floodplain. FEMA maps determine the floodplain by their own criteria.
Scott Somerville of Sugar Grove asked about the case of a campground located in the floodplain. McConnell responded that “most are just campers. They have to be roadworthy and licensed for the road.” Carl Hevener added that the section of the campground in question was in the flood plain and only allowed temporary use. Long-term users have access to parts of the property above the floodplain.
Laura Brown, Pendleton County Economic and Community Development Authority executive director, reported on her meeting with John Golden of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this philanthropic organization’s mission lies in supporting community and economic development in West Virginia and southwest Pennsylvania. Brown stated that Golden was pleased with the county’s efforts. She said, “We have the feasibility studies. He is interested in regional projects and will follow up.”
Brown also reminded those in attendance that households who qualify for broadband service extension in Sugar Grove need to get their library cards and use a physical address instead of a post office box.
McConnell then brought up the Federal Communications Commission request for people to log on to their official broadband service map. He said “The position was right, but the address was wrong.” Rick Gillespie, Pendleton County Emergency Services coordinator, replied “the FCC says this is just a draft, but it’s still messed up.” McConnell speculated that the FCC was having the public clean up their database for them.
As the meeting approached its close, the official representative from the office of Congressman Alex Mooney expressed his thanks and explained that this would be his last visit with the commission. Redistricting placed Pendleton County in a new congressional district. He explained that his office could help those trying to contact the office of Carol Miller, the county’s new representative in Congress.
As the meeting closed, commissioners and others took the opportunity to remark on the two-term tenure of McConnell coming to a close. Hevener said, “I’d like to thank you for 12 good years.”
McConnell responded, “This is one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with.” He described how the county would set a budget with very limited resources affecting all departments, but he never remembered hearing a complaint. “You can’t ask for any better than that,” he remarked.
He finished by saying “it’s been a good 12 years. I’m thankful.” Then the commissioners requested that he have the honor of calling for the meeting to adjourn, which he did.