By Stephen Smoot
Late last month, the Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County Facebook group came to the second consecutive Pendleton County Commission meeting to share their views on a potential wind farm and their ideas on how to prevent its establishment.
Roger Dahmer opened the session with a prayer, saying “we thank you for this wonderful day You have given us.”
Barbara Dean, secretary and treasurer of the group ceded two minutes of her allotted time to Scott Somerville, who addressed the commission in the first April meeting. Somerville opened with a mea culpa, apologizing for leaving the impression that he had made personal attacks. He said “I am very sorry . . . if I came across as a bully.” Somerville said that his intent lay in wanting “us to come together as citizens” and that the county should “take its time to get it right.” He praised the commissioners, including “Mr. Hevener” who “has been nothing but polite.”
Dean then explained the history of the group’s opposition to wind farm construction in 2006 that led to a permit denial by the West Virginia Public Service Commission in 2007. She recommended a moratorium on construction of structures over 200 feet in height.
Mike Willenborg expressed concern about the Public Service Commission fast-tracking an application for building wind turbines. He reiterated the need for a moratorium to allow time to review all aspects of the impact of the turbines in the county.
Other speakers followed. Leonard Uptain, president of the Blackthorn Mountain homeowners’ association, discussed the possible effect on property values. Jack Bowers shared his experiences in Europe seeing rows of idle and decommissioned towers when the lifespan of the generators ended. In general, the speakers related concerns about “potential negative impacts they could have in regards to tourism, agritourism, scenic views, water, noise, traffic, and health.”
The proposed moratorium sparked concerns about construction on non-wind energy structures, such as communications towers. Carl Hevener, commission president, remarked that it could also hamstring grain producers. One of the challenges of writing a moratorium would be to make it general enough to satisfy the law, but specific enough to leave out vital agricultural, communications, and other structures.
Other county officials weighed in with their research. April Mallow, prosecuting attorney, shared that as of April 17, no one had filed to construct wind farms in the county. Laura Brown, Pendleton County Economic and Community Development Authority director, reported that she had made inquiries to Randolph County concerning business and property values near that county’s wind farms and that they reported no negative trends. Amber Nesselrodt, Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau director, stated that Grant County officials reported that the turbines were an object of curiosity for some tourists visiting the area.
Next, the commission heard reports on structural maintenance. The new generator at the community building is on the pad and ready to be hooked up. Karen Pitsenbarger reported, however, that the HVAC system at the health department required replacement for a total cost of $6,900. The commission approved the work. Additionally, Pitsenbarger said that the community building’s HVAC might need replaced in the not-too-distant future as well.
Elise White, county clerk, reported on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). She requested to apply for funds to purchase electronic pollbook systems for each precinct. If approved, the grant would pay for 85% of the $26,799.00 purchase price. The commission gave permission for the application.
Pendleton County’s 911 dispatchers received praise approximately three hours before they started to receive reports on the first wildfires breaking out that week. Rick Gillespie reported on “numerous calls, including four helicopter transports.” Commissioner Roger Dahmer read a letter of thanks and appreciation that will be sent to each 911 staffer as part of National Public Safety Telecommunications week.
Gillespie then filled the commission in on grant applications that will soon be submitted. Additionally, he shared that the National Radio Quiet Zone has put out requests for proposals for companies to study the zone.
County Commissioners also approved a set of updated levy rates, which run as follows:
Class II Rates – 28.60
Class III Rates – 57.20
Class IV Rates – 57.20
Total Projected Revenue 2,741,962
Less Uncollectable Taxes, Exonerations and Delinquencies 137,098
Less Tax Discount 52,097
Total Projected Property Tax Collection 2,552,767
Less Assessor Valuation Fund 51,055
Net Amount To Be Raised by Levy 2,501,712
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