By C.V. Moore
OAK HILL —
The City of Oak Hill has opted not to contribute any money to a community service initiative this summer sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia.
The city received a form letter from the county’s coordinator, Dave Pollard, appealing to communities that they contribute money or an in-kind donation to meet a currently unfunded balance of $48,000 for the project.
The letter indicated the town would benefit from five projects but no one at the meeting could think of more than three. The council also could not read a hand-written dollar amount indicating the total financial impact of the projects on the town.
“I hate to appear to be anti, but when this first came out with the publicity surrounding it, there was no mention of recipients of those projects paying for it. So this came as a complete surprise that they are requesting money,” said council member Tom Oxley at Monday’s city council meeting.
“And our legislature has been trying to give them every concession under the sun, concessions they didn’t offer to get them here. As much as I like the scouting program, I’m not so sure I’d be for it.”
Upon applying for the program, the city had to stipulate it would supply all the materials needed for the project, such as gloves and tools.
The letter states that in Fayette County, the five-day community service initiative during the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree would send up to 1,000 scouts and volunteers to perform 55 projects with a combined economic impact of $287,000.
In other council business, the city approved a 6 percent sewer rate increase on Monday after a public hearing generated no comment.
The increase will partly fund a $14 million sewer improvement project for the city aimed at cleaning up the surrounding waterways by identifying leaks, mapping the system, and dealing with stormwater issues.
The average residential customer using 3,500 gallons will see an increase of $1.94 on their monthly bill. Payments will increase by $6.45 for the average commercial user; by $11.15 for government; and by $11.01 for industrial users.
City Manager Bill Hannabass said that Oak Hill is “in the middle of the pack” when it comes to sewer bills for municipalities in West Virginia. He notes that surrounding towns like Mount Hope and Fayetteville are potentially facing much more dramatic increases, without improvement projects attached.
“I don’t like (sewer rate increases) but we have to have a system that is reliable and does what we promise it will do,” he told council.
“I don’t like sewer rate increases either, but things become necessary and you have to do it,” said council person Jeff Atha.
The city recognized an Eagle Scout, Brandon Murdoch, of Troop 1335 for the time and effort he put forth in beautifying a portion of the community.
For his project, Murdoch chose to clean up the Duncan Family Cemetery, construct a reflection bench, and install a wooden sign at the cemetery on Central Avenue.
“Brandon took it upon himself to completely clear that up. It’s in nice shape now,” said Mayor Fred Dickinson.
Monday was the city’s first meeting with new projection and presentation technology in the council chambers. Mayor Fred Dickinson commended Bill Hannabass, city manager, for his efforts.
“We are using the most modern and up to date equipment for our public council meeting that I’ve seen in the state. It has unlimited possibilities,” he said.
The chamber has been rearranged and now projects the council agenda and many other documents relevant to agenda items in a large-screen format on both the front and back walls so those throughout the entire room can see.
“This was a collaboration. It makes us more professional. There will be a lot of people who will be using this technology. Everybody needs to step up to the plate and be up to date on technology,” said Hannabass.
Oak Hill also sends out detailed council packets and other updates electronically and anyone can ask to receive that information.
“We’re as transparent as we can be,” said Hannabass.
The updates cost approximately $15,000.
Council approved a 10-year lease for the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau, which occupy a building on Oyler Avenue owned by the city.
The issue arose because the Chamber/CVB wants to pave and make repairs on the building but needs assurance they can continue to occupy it. They originally broached the possibility of the city conveying the property to them.
“Conveyance would have to have a mutual benefit, and we didn’t know what that was. A long term lease might be in the interests of both parties,” said council member Tom Oxley.
Representatives from Mountain Transit Authority (MTA) approached council about a contribution.
In past weeks, they’ve been speaking with local governments about improving service in the area, and the need for more local funding.
“What you need in Fayette County has far outreached the services we provide you,” said Dr. Rex Haynes of MTA.
MTA says there are not enough stops or buses for the current need. The group’s director, Jim Mullens, says he will be adding an additional bus in the next 60 days, but that he wants to do even more.
“My dream is to build Fayette County a future of transportation. I want Dollar a Ride here. I want non-emergency medical transport here.
The MTA is asking for a $0.75 per person contribution from towns.
Council member Tom Oxley asked about seeing an audit of the group’s finances and about several possibilities for advertising revenues.
The council placed Don Phillips on the Board of Zoning Appeals for a 3-year term.
They also gave Sanitary Board members a $100 per month pay raise, doubling current salaries.
“They are in the midst of the sewer improvement project we’re talking about,” said Hannabass. “I’ll just say they are underpaid at that rate and would appreciate the consideration.”
Council member Mollie Ray said the raise seemed a little ill-timed due to the concurrent sewer rate increase and asked about employee raises for sanitary workers. Those will take effect July 1.
“I’m a firm believer that they need to be compensated more,” said council member Tom Oxley.
An ordinance establishing a new Amphitheater Commission passed council. The commission will be composed of the mayor, city manager, a member of council, and seven members of the public who will be appointed by the mayor or council.
The body will advise and recommend programs, policies, or projects that would improve the operation of the city’s new amphitheater on Main Street.
City of Oak Hill Chief of Police Mike Whisman gave council an update on the activities of the Central WV Drug Task Force. Sgt. Chris Young of Oak Hill department is a part of the agency.
Whisman reports the following activities for March:
-- 12 controlled drug buys
-- 9 people arrested or have warrants on file through State Court
-- 1 person arrested through the Federal Court
-- 2 ounces of heroin seized at Collinwood Trailer Court with a street value of $11,000
-- 50 oxycodone pills seized with a street value of $2,500
-- $4,700 seized
-- 40 hours of mandatory class on meth lab certification attended
A paving bid from Southern West Virginia Paving came in at $287,590, well over the $160,000 the city has budgeted for their current paving project.
“This is not a shock and this is not unmanageable,” said Hannabass.
The city has budgeted $225,000 for paving in the next fiscal year, which will be available July 1.
Hannabass asked the contractor to itemize the bids so that the list could be pared down to meet the current budget. Council authorized Hannabass to modify the list.
The rest of the streets will be paved in the fall.
Lastly, a proclamation for National Missing Children’s Day on May 25 was passed by council, as “a time to remember children who are missing and give hope to their families.”