By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the county commission tackled a variety of topics in their first meeting of the month. Discussion centered first on the ongoing generator question at the community building.
Rick Gillespie, county emergency services coordinator, reported that the Franklin Fire Department had purchased a generator to serve as backup power for their side of the building. The question of secondary power was deemed critical over the past two months because the fire department could not open their new doors without power.
Since then, however, adaptations have allowed the door to be opened manually in case of power outages. “They can raise the doors by hand,” Gillespie explained, but added “I agree there needs to be power backup for the whole building.”
Commissioners expressed concerns over the generator only serving part of the structure. Gene McConnell, county commission president, noted that “they will have to mess with the wiring. The insurance company may have something to say about that.” County commissioner Carl Hevener pointed out that “we own the building. We’re supplying it.”
McConnell later added that “we’ll have to come to some sort of understanding. We don’t want the insurance company coming back, saying what are you doing.”
Laura Brown, director of the county economic development authority, updated the county commission on two vital issues. First, she reported that Shentel and Lingo commenced laying out routes for broadband expansion with the build being done in 2023. Brown also shared that another provider in partnership with Grant County has shown interest in expanding through the northern tier of the county.
She turned next to updating the commission on the establishment of the separate convention and visitors bureau. The CVB remains on track to fulfil the protocols needed to retain accreditation. Additionally, the CVB is working with the marketing company New South Media. Surrounding counties have for the most part retained either New South Media or other marketing firms.
Brown lastly shared that other Potomac Highlands counties have started organizing in support of a major motorcycle ride event.
Commissioners then turned to the question of bonuses paid to the county assessor for performing a farm census. McConnell explained that “we’ve been giving $50 when the code calls for an amount to not exceed 10 percent,” but added “I want to do it fairly and equitably.”
Because, as McConnell said, “I’m not so sure Pendleton County is on the same scale as other counties” in terms of workload. The commission settled on creating a bonus of five percent of the annual salary, which would be approximately $2,500. Hevener stated “that seems like a fair amount.”
Sheriff Chad Bowers provided a report on how county offices have adjusted to new guidelines for sales of properties for delinquent taxes. Under a new law passed by the State Legislature, the state has taken over delinquent tax sales and made significant changes. These include shortening the time before sale from 18 months to 90 days, providing a payment plan option for those in economic distress, and mandating that counties change their banking to accommodate the changes.
Bowers added that “they’re still trying to work out the bugs.” McConnell quipped that “They’re asking us to approve what they’re ordering us to do.”
Commissioners expressed concern that the shortened period will create a situation where “people will lose land they didn’t know they lost.”
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