By Lon Anderson
Hardy County now has a new flood plain ordinance that brings the County into compliance with the State Code. The code sets standards and requirements for construction in the floodplain, which is important because FEMA required the County to update its to remain in good standing. Last Spring FEMA threatened the County status if it did not update the code.
The County Commission, in a 3-0 vote, approved the code in its second reading, which makes it final, with no testimony for or against at the hearing, which was held during the Commission’s August meeting last week.
However, at the Code’s first reading in July, Planning Commission President Lee Lehman did speak against the version the Commission was voting on, which was copied from the State Code. Instead, Lehman favored a stronger draft of the code that had been written by the County’s former Flood Plain Manager, Melissa Scott, endorsed by the Planning Commission and praised by both State and FEMA officials.
Commission President Harold Michael explained that “when the flood plain ordinance came to them (from the Planning Office) it had some additional things in that I objected to. Builders would have had to pay inspectors a thousand dollars or some such, and that’s not in here. But (in the version they passed) you will have to have a contractor approved by FEMA who does the work, but the landowner or builder pays all of the expense.”
Commission Member David Workman noted that “what concerns me is that new (flood plain) modeling (now underway) may put some in the flood plain that were not in there before. I don’t know that those models will adequately represent our situation.” The County’s Flood Plain Manager position has been vacant since Scott left in April.
On the Coronavirus front, in his report to the Commission, County Health Director Bill Ours reported, “We in Hardy County are doing OK.” To date, the County has had 57 positives, with 53 recovered, and 4 active cases.
“But I’m a little concerned about Grant County,” he said, “which is blowing up, with 119 cases, and over 100 of those are in the last 30 days. That’s a potential for a big problem here,” he continued, because we have so many here who work and travel back and forth or have relatives and friends in Grant.
“But for right now, we (Hardy County) are holding our own,” he said, summing up. Ours then asked for more financial assistance: “I don’t know what you’re doing with the Governor’s money (for COVID) but I’d like to take $5,000 or so for stocking up on masks and supplies, given the approach of flu season.”
Michael asked Helmick to assist him with that request.
But Ours wasn’t done: He had one more request of the Commission from his Board, for assistance with an application to open a cannabis dispensary in town.
He explained that the Health Department has had a request from some folks wanting to open a cannabis business, and that the Board is supposed to oversee such requests, “but we have no guidelines or rules to go from, no grounds to approve or disapprove.”
“It’s the wave: we know they are coming,” Ours added.
“If it’s in town, then it’s the town’s issue,” Michael responded.
“They’re looking at the old American Woodmark plant,” Ours said.
“Is it a store?” asked Fran Welton.
“No, you need a prescription,” Ours responded.
“Let’s remember that all of the tax money raised (from the sales) will be used to fund patrol officers in our schools,” Helmick said.
“We need to get the lawyers involved and consider this,” Michael said. “Get Lucas (See) to take a look at this and give us his opinion.”
“For just a business license?” Welton asked.
“If you want to be a grower or a dispenser, the State has to sign off, and then the local Board of Health must sign off,” Ours explained. “I’m not sure whether it’s in Hampshire or Grant yet, but it’s coming; more people are using cannabis than you realize.”
“Has the law changed so that you can have so much in possession and not get arrested?’ asked Commissioner Jay Fansler.
“Oh yes,” Ours replied. “You’re getting oils, not a bag.”
Ours noted that he requires clarification before an Aug. 19 Board meeting: “Can you get back to me before then?” Michael said they would.
Derek Alt, Executive Director of the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority told Commissioners that they had 73 alerts and 44 transports in July, and requested a monthly draw of $65,000 for expenses, which the Commission approved.
“Do you have ongoing impacts from COVID?” asked Workman.
“We’re treating everyone as a potential COVID patient,” Alt responded. “For the most part, we’ve been lucky. And the Com Center has been pretty good at notifying us when we’re getting into something.”
Michael then asked Alt about an Examiner story that indicated the Ambulance Authority Board had expressed concern about the management of the collections and late fees. “The tone of the article indicated that we weren’t doing it right.
“Instantly, by changing back, we were saving about $40,000 a year,” Michael said, referring to the Commission’s taking back the functions of the [private]ambulance fee billing and collections from the Authority last spring.
“And when people call, they are getting someone here on the phone,” Michael continued.
“I’m the one who raised the issue at the (Ambulance Authority) meeting about my concerns after talking with Rose,” Welton said.
Michael noted that they provide reports showing the collections and expenses.
“Can we (the Ambulance Authority) get copies of the reports showing collections and drawdowns?” Welton asked.
“We provide those to Derek,” Helmick responded, noting that there is about $5,000 in late fees that they have to refund.
“There is some concern,” Alt noted, “that we have follow-through taking people (who don’t pay) to court.”
“We intend to do that,” Michael responded.
“The fairest way (to pay for the Ambulance service) would be for (the fees) to be part of the taxes and about 80% would pay less, but we tried that now 2 or 3 times,” Michael said.
“We had a lot of concerns, so much was out of our control,” Michael continued, referring to the previous fee billing and collections that were contracted out. “When you look at the whole picture, we are far better off now.”
“We are getting fewer calls,” Alt said. “And we weren’t happy about turning it over, but boy, if you tried to give it back…”
The Commission heard a request from Michele Moure Reeves, Executive Director of the Hardy County Convention and Visitors Bureau, requesting the Commission pass a resolution opposing Senate Bill 799, which creates a Convention and Visitors Bureau Council.
She noted that the council created by the bill would issue guidelines about how local CVBs could spend their money and would infringe upon local CVBs’ independence, which now answer to their County Commissions about how best to utilize their resources to support and expand local tourism.
Workman noted that he had just returned from a meeting of the West Virginia County Commissioners Association where he had talked with commissioners in other counties about this. He noted that Pendleton Commissioners and others were very familiar with this and also saw this as another attempt to usurp their authority.
Workman then made a motion to support the resolution, which passed unanimously.
The Commission also heard a plea to improve traffic safety along State Route 259 in the Lost City area from Lost River resident Jesse Halpern-Robinson. “There’s a speeding problem that recently claimed the life of someone in Lost City. I’m here to ask your help to save lives and improve safety.”
“I’ve heard that the motorist who hit the man on the tractor was driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit,” Halpern-Robinson said. “My suggestion is to look at similar areas with businesses where speeds are dropped.”
“Have you contacted the Sheriff’s Department?” asked Fansler.
“No, but I did reach out to the traffic engineering department at the Department of Highways,” he responded.
“I have heard from several people with similar concerns,” commented Moure-Reeves of the CVB. “From Lost City to the bridge, if it could be reduced to 45 mph…there are three very busy turns along there during tourism season.”
“We’ll take a look and see what we can do,” Michael responded. “We have a meeting with the DOH deputy superintendent soon and will talk with him and go from there.”
The Commission also received some good news from County Clerk Gregg Ely that their grant submission for $194,213.50 to purchase new voting machines has been approved, and the machines would be here and operational in time for the November elections.
In other actions, the Commission:
• Approved $5,275 to replace an AC unit at the Hardy County Health and Wellness Center;
• Agreed, per guidance from the Governor, to seek reimbursement to offset some employees salaries who are involved in stopping the spread of the COVID virus;
• Approved a grant of $5,940 to the Moorefield Lions Club for the “4th of July Fairs and Festivals,” and;
• Approved the appointment of Robert “Bob” Taylor to the Moorefield/Hardy County Wastewater Board.[/private]