By Jean A. Flanagan
When renovations to East Hardy High School began in 2013, the Baker Branch of the Hardy County Public Library was closed, much to the dismay to patrons on the east side of the county.
Since then, the Library Commission has looked for a visible, viable and affordable location to reopen the library. That search may be over.
The Hardy County Commission met on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
“We’re not looking for any funding,” Rinard said. “We’d like permission to use county property. We have talked to E. A. Hawse, who owns most of the property we are looking to use. They are willing to let the library use a portion of it at no cost.”
[private] The parcel on which the HCEAA building is located, includes about two-thirds of the parking lot on the southwest side. E. A. Hawse owns the remainder.
According to Rinard, the Library Commission would like to install portable buildings, like portable classrooms, on the property.
“We want to gauge the traffic before we do anything permanent,” he said. “If we see the traffic has come back, perhaps we will do something more permanent.”
Rinard reminded the commissioners, the Baker Branch was the first of its kind in the state. Installed in 1977, a portable building was placed on a foundation and water and sewer were connected. Then Governor John “Jay” D. Rockefeller presided over the dedication. “It was the first satellite library in the state,” Rinard said.
The commission approved the concept of allowing the library to use part of the parking lot. They requested Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See work out the details with the Library Commission and bring the finished documentation back to the commission.
County Planner Melissa Scott provided the commission with a list of terms and proposed revisions to their definitions as they relate to the Hardy County Zoning Ordinance.
The Planning Commission scheduled a public hearing for the evening of Sept. 5 regarding the proposed text amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.
The terms include agri-tourism, tasting facility, brewery, cidery, distillery and mini-distillery.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” Scott said. “Since these things are not mentioned in our zoning, they were not allowed. You still have to get permission from the ABCA.”
The Alcohol Beverage Control Administration is the alcoholic beverage control authority in West Virginia. They license the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the state.
“I always thought if it was not mentioned it was allowed,” Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger said.
“I can’t imagine zoning covers every single thing,” Commission President Harold Michael said.
“There are conditional uses,” Scott said. “Someone makes an application and the Board of Zoning Appeals makes a determination.
“The agriculture community was very active in creating the draft. After the public hearing, the Planning Commission will send its recommendations to the County Commission.”
Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See presented an Abandoned Building Ordinance and advised the commission to not adopt it. “This creates a whole new level of government,” he said. “This is a recipe for disaster.”
The ordinance, most likely copied from another jurisdiction, did not come from the Planning Commission or the Planning Office.
See told the commission, the ordinance was meant for a larger, more populace county. “It recommends the County Engineer provide assistance,” he said.
“The closest thing we could do is to enact a Property Maintenance Code,” Scott said. “Then we could hire a contractor, who along with the fire marshall, could make an inspection and deem a structure unsafe.”
West Virginia Code §7-1-3ff says it is the authority of the County Commission to adopt an ordinance to regulate unsafe or unsanitary structures.
“Doesn’t current law say the fire marshall and the health department have that authority?” Michael asked.
“The health department does not have the power to condemn,” Hardy County Health Department Administrator Bill Ours said. “That rests with the County Commission.”
Ours said he served on the Town of Moorefield Abandoned Buildings Committee.
“We try to find the owners or heirs and ask them to take care of it,” he said. “The things you run into now, if you try to demolish a structure, are asbestos and lead.”
“Other counties have adopted a Property Maintenance Code, with the focus on health and safety,” Scott said.
Commissioner David “Jay” Fansler said the ordinance came to the commission in relation to a building in Mathias.
In December 2016, fire destroyed the former Mathias Restaurant at the corner of Route 259 and Upper Cove Run Road. The building had been converted into apartments, which were occupied by two families. No one was injured in the incident.
Shortly after the fire, Fansler approached the commissioners, independently of the regular commission meeting, about the property. The building couldn’t be repaired and the owners didn’t have the resources to demolish it. They wanted to give the county the building to demolish. Since there is no legal mechanism for the county to “take” the property, nothing has been done.
“The owner approached the Division of Highways and wanted us to take the property,” Carrie Jones, communications specialist with the West Virginia Division of Highways told the Examiner. “We don’t know what we will find in the demolition and since we don’t have a project in that area, we don’t want to get into a demolition situation.”
Jones acknowledged that 10 feet of the structure sits in the DOH right of way. “We have no plans to do anything at this time,” she said.
See repeated his recommendation to not adopt an Abandoned Building Ordinance.
Paul Lewis, director of the Hardy County Office of Emergency Management and 911 Center provided his monthly report.
Lewis said he is still looking for a site for a communications tower in the Lost River-Mathias area, although he has two sites that are possibilities. “I’m looking at those with the availability of electricity,” he said.
Calls for service declined a bit from last month, but still remain high. In July there were 822 calls for service and in August that number decreased to 800. They are as follows:
• The Moorefield Police Department had 386 calls for service.
• The Hardy County Sheriff’s Department had 274 calls for service.
• The West Virginia State Police had 45 calls for service.
• The WV DNR had 4 calls for service.
*includes traffic stops.
• Fraley Ambulance Service had 99 calls for service.
• Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority had 43 calls for service.
• Wardensville Volunteer Rescue Squad had 35 calls for service.
• Capon Springs Volunteer Rescue Squad assisted with 9 calls for service.
• The Moorefield Volunteer Fire Department had 18 calls for service.
• The Mathias/Baker Volunteer Fire Department had 6 calls for service.
• The Capon Valley Volunteer Fire Department had 5 calls for service.
Lewis said the calls to Wardensville EMS increased significantly. “I think they had seven calls in one day,” he said.
He also expects the calls for fire departments to increase when the cooler weather comes and people light their furnaces and stoves for the first time this season.
A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 6 to discuss the needs of the county going forward.
“As part of the grant process, I have to include a THIRA worksheet,” Lewis said. “If the needs requested in the grant are not on the THIRA paperwork, they will most likely not get funded.”
Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is part of the National Incident Management System under the Federal Emergency Management Administration. It is an assessment of needs of the entire community including individuals, businesses, faith-based and non profit groups, schools and government agencies.
Lewis asked if the three portable kitchens now parked at the Division of Highways lot can be moved to the Haz-Mat building. “We’ve never used them and only one person knows how to operate them,” he said.
Michael asked if the equipment in the former 911 center can be removed.
Lewis said not until the license is updated to list the new address for the 911 center. That is in process.
•The payroll register for Aug. 1 – 15 was $76,595.88.
•The payroll register for Aug. 16 – 31 was $68,067.68.
•The regional jail bill for July was $53,461.
•The county’s contribution to the Farmland Protection Board for August was $8,167.50.
•The commission approved a letter of resignation from Melvin Shook from the Public Service District Board of Directors.
•The commission approved the appointment of Robbie Harper to the Public Service District Board of Directors.
•The commission approved the appointment of Darby Clayton to the Rural Development Authority Board of Directors.
•The commission approved an expenditure of $3,000 for furniture for the Circuit Court Judge’s chambers and the probation office.
•The commission voted to proceed with a grant request from the Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority for central air conditioning in the old part of the courthouse.
•The commission approved a request by the Census Bureau to provide new addresses for the upcoming 2020 census.
•The commission approved a request from the Corridor H Authority for $5,000 to pay for lobbyists Bowles Rice. Funding for the authority was not included in the state’s FY2018 budget. Hardy County RDA Director Mallie Combs asked the commission to include a request for the WV/VA connection to be a priority of the Corridor H authority.
•The commission approved two property tax exonerations of more than a year. Troy Snyder and Stanley and Marcella Pennington received exonerations.
•The commission approved an Excise Tax increase of $0.55 per $500 of value. The total excise tax to file a deed in Hardy Count is $1.65, effective Oct. 1.
•The commission approved a transfer of $30,000 from the Emergency Ambulance Fee fund to the HCEAA.
•The next meeting of the Hardy County Commission will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 3 beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda should contact the County Clerk’s office at 304-530-0250.