By Peggy Mackenzie
The Greenbrier County Commission held their final meeting in 2019 on Monday morning. An on-going erosion issue at the Sports Plex property highlighted the five-item agenda.
The Sports Plex property off of Brush Road has been undergoing a gradual renovation from an isolated wooded hillside site to eventually become an attractive, multi-use recreation center to benefit county residents and tourists alike. Earlier this year, a prerequisite stage of the project was the massive removal of several acres of woodland forestry. The late summer drought conditions may have retarded the growth of sufficient ground-cover growth, and when the fall rains came, storm water incursions developed, affecting neighboring properties. Complaints arose about silt and storm water runoff invading adjacent ponds on two land owners’ properties below the Sports Plex.
During the meeting, Commissioner Lowell Rose implied the responsibility for the water run off lay with the contractor, who, he said, had removed three of five erosion control barriers. Rose said the contractor will be required to replace the erosion control elements including “ells” (long lines of straw-filled sacks) to catch the silted run off and two skimmers to clear the silted water off the ponds at a combined cost to the contractor of $17,581.
Commissioner Tammy Shifflett-Tincher, who has consistently voted against any funding for the Sports Plex developments, said all the commissioners agreed there is an obvious drainage problem there. “We recognize the issue and are working with the engineer and the contractor to solve and eliminate the problems,” she said. Although the commission could not vote on it today, she would like to have a second opinion brought forward on the engineering of the drainage issue on the property. But, she said, the current concern must be handled immediately.
Commissioner Mike McClung agreed, stating that when the Commission walked the property with the engineer and contractor, “…We were not pleased.” Additionally, “There are problems downstream,” he said, implying a reference to a bloom of muddy water run off which has inundated the Greenbrier River, “…and being good neighbors, we are addressing those issues.” McClung added that, given the size of the Sports Plex property, he didn’t think the problem could be solved 100 percent. Rose concurred with Tincher that the erosion issue will generate additional meetings with the engineer and contractor before a satisfactory resolution is reached.
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- The commission also signed a letter to verify that the Smoot area Volunteer Fire Department is indeed a working fire department within the county. Chief Anthony Bowden confirmed that there was a period in the past when there were only two working volunteer members, and that they didn’t even have a fire truck to respond to a fire with. There are now 12 volunteers, Bowden said, and now, with the commission’s verification, the department will be able to move forward with the purchase of a fire truck.
- Two properties were approved for purchase as the county’s total Farmland Protection Easements for the 2019 fiscal year. The first is a 461-acre dairy farm on Vago Road in Frankford for $900,900. The county commission will cover $500,900 with the remaining $400,000 to come from the WV Agricultural Land Protection Authority. The second property is a 62-acre grass beef farm on Horse Shoe Road in the Organ Cave area for $125,600. The purchase funding for that property was split 50/50 between the National Resource Conservation Service and the Greenbrier Conservation Farm Land Protection Agency at $62,800 each. These two properties will remain working farms by the owners, who retain ownership and the right to sell, if desired, but the intent of the easements is to allow the properties to remain as open farmland in perpetuity.
- The commission approved changing the county’s current FEMA account to an interest-bearing checking account following a review with state and county oversight officials. Commissioner Tammy Shifflett-Tincher explained that since the county receives large dollar funding amounts from FEMA for various projects, it made sense to switch to a more practical interest-bearing account.
- The commission agreed to sign a letter to allow the WV Property Tax Division permission to make changes as deemed necessary for gas, oil and coal leases on land holdings through to the end of Feb. 2020.
The first Greenbrier County Commission meeting for the new year will be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2020.