By Jean A. Flanagan
J Carter was first. He was followed by several others. There will be more. The annual parade of requests for funding from the Hardy County Commission began in earnest last week.
The commission met on Tuesday, March 1.
The commissioners will soon begin the process of establishing a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2016. Requests for funding to be considered as part of that process must be presented to the commission in writing.
Carter, executive director of the Potomac Valley Transit Authority provided an overview of the bus service, it’s growth and it’s goals for the coming year.
[private] “We started in 1977 with five buses and a budget of $250,000,” he said. “Now we have 26 buses and a $1.6 million budget. Last year we drove 750,000 miles, providing 100,000 rides.”
PVTA supports Pilgrim’s Pride, providing dedicated transportation for its employees, as well as non-emergency medical transport to clients of the Developmental Center-Workshop in Keyser.
“We are hoping to expand our Ready-Ride service in Moorefield,” Carter said. “We want to add an hour to service Monday through Friday and begin Saturday service. It is all contingent on our ability to hire employees. That’s been our biggest problem.”
Carter requested the Hardy County Commission support PVTA with $5,000. “The same as last year,” he said.
“We appreciate all you do for these counties,” Commissioner J. Michael Teets said.
David Workman, WVU Extension Agent, presented two proposals to the commission. One involved the total funding of a third extension agent in Hardy County.
The other proposed the funding of a full time program assistant, a considerable less costly alternative.
“There is a difference of about $10,000,” he said.
Historically, the West Virginia University system funds one extension agent per county. They have also funded partial salary for a second agent. Hardy County has paid the remaining second agent and fully funded a third. “We understand there are financial constraints,” Workman said.
“Which proposal do you recommend?” Teets asked.
“We would like to continue with three agents,” Workman said. “Hardy County has always been nontraditional. They have stepped up. When other counties have downsized, we have kept three agents.”
Workman assured the commissioners the programs the WVU Extension office administers will continue.
“Our 4-H programs probably have the highest visibility,” he said. “Camp will go on.”
Betty Williams and Jo Oliver presented the commissioners with a letter of support from the Community Education and Outreach Service Clubs for funding a third agent.
“Our clubs provide more than 12,000 volunteer hours, which equals $275,000 savings to the county,” Williams said. “In counties where they’ve lost an agent, programs decline.”
Will Runion, chair of the Retail Committee with the Hardy County Chamber of Commerce requested $2,000 for the chamber’s Shop Local/Buy Local initiative.
Runion said the Reindeal Days Holiday Shop Local program has been successful for the past five years.
“We plan to add a summer program in addition to the Reindeal Days,” he said. “We want to engage the students in school by having a logo and slogan contest. The winner’s logo and slogan will be used in all our print advertising.”
Commissioner Harold Michael said he wasn’t sure taxpayer money should be spent on a business raffle.
“It’s also about raising awareness,” Runion said. “We want to keep business in the county.”
Runion also said for every $100 spent in the county $73 stays in the county. “That’s not true with money spent outside the county,” he said.
Commission President William “JR” Keplinger said the request would be considered.
Ronald Miller and Richard Gray with the Hardy County Farmland Protection Board were asked to explain the process for inclusion in the farmland protection program.
Property owners in the farmland protection program are paid for a conservation easement, which means the property cannot be developed.
According to Gray, applications are accepted anytime. The Natural Resource Conservation Service reviews the application and ranks it according to a variety of criteria. If the property is ranked high enough, the NRCS will share 50 percent of the cost of the easement.
When the property is selected, an appraisal is done and if the property owner agrees, the project moves forward. There is an appraisal review and the parties have a year to close on the property.
“They are ranked by quality soils,” Gray said. “There must be 33 percent open ground and it must be an average sized farm. They will approve 10, but will only fund five.”
Michael asked about restrictions on the easements. He sits on the board of directors for Hardy Telecommunications.
Last year, Hardy Telecommunications wanted to bury fiber optic cables under a farm protected by a conservation easement.
“State law allows telecommunications right-of-ways, but the feds said we couldn’t,” Michael said.
Gray said there were four conservation agencies involved in the farm in question.
“Three of the four didn’t agree with burying the lines,” he said. “In Mineral County, the entity took the matter to court and NRCS didn’t show up. If you have condemnation power, you might consider it.”
Michael said Hardy Telecommunications had condemnation authority but had never used it in the cooperative’s 60-year history.
“We perhaps learned from this, to leave a strip of land outside the easement for utilities,” Miller said.
Gray explained the Farmland Protection Program is funded through a 2 percent transfer tax on all real estate transfers. There are federal and state allocations as well.
Gray also said the Hardy County Rural Development Authority was a member of the board and had been providing clerical services, but will not have time to continue. “If someone from the courthouse could take on those responsibilities, we would reimburse the time,” he said.
Keplinger said he would look into the possibility.
•The payroll register for Feb. 1 – 15 was $65,344.11.
•The payroll register for Feb. 16 – 29 was $64,979.21
•The county’s contribution to the Farmland Protection Board in February was $4,082.10.
•The regional jail bill for January was $37,779.75.
•Paula Moeller with the US Department of Agriculture brought grant approvals for two police cars for the Sheriff’s department. The grant will fund 35 percent of the purchase price. The county must pay the balance. Sheriff Bryan Ward requested the commission release funds for one vehicle and will determine at a later date if a second vehicle is affordable.
•The commission approved a request by the Hardy County Prosecutor’s office to purchase a copier from the County Clerk’s office for $3,747.90.
•The commission approved a request by the Sheriff’s Department to apply for a Court Security Grant to purchase additional cameras.
•The commission approved a letter to the WV Division of Highways for a surplus generator for the courthouse.
•The commission approved a list of poll workers for the May 10 Primary Election.
•The commission will begin budget meetings on Tuesday, March 15. The meetings are open to the public.
The next regular meeting of the Hardy County Commission will be held on Tuesday, April 5 beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda should call the County Clerk’s office at 304-530-0250.[/private]