Tyler County Commissioners conducted a busy and productive meeting yesterday, speaking with representatives from both Tyler County and Sistersville Public Libraries, OEM Director Tom Cooper, Sheriff Earl P. Kendle, Jr., and local residents Chris Hoke and Al Tuttle.
After minutes of the previous meeting, exonerations, and the clerk's fiduciary report were approved by the commission, Roseanne Eastham of Tyler County Public Library spoke to those present, asking commissioners for their continued financial support of the facility.
"As you know, we are well on our way toward our goal of building a new facility," said Eastham. "Just this morning I received notification that the library has been awarded additional funds in the amount of $1,166 from the state."
"We would like to thank you for your support, and ask that you consider allocating funds again," she said. "If at all possible, we would request increasing the amount of support from $2,000 to $6,000 for this year."
Eastham explained the $6,000 would help keep state funding at its current level. Without local tax based funding, state funding will decrease.
Heather Weekley also asked commission consider continuing support of the Sistersville Public Library.
"Thank you for your support in the past," began Weekley. " We have lost $3,000 in funding this year due to a decrease in population. We ask you continue your support of the Sistersville Library."
Commission President Charles "Pork" Smith told both Eastham and Weekley, "We go over the budget next month. At that point, we will see where we stand, and what we can do to help."
Commission thanked Eastham and Weekley for their presentations.
Tyler County resident Chris Hoke spoke to commissioners next, beginning by introducing herself as a "resident and farmer in Tyler County."
Ms. Hoke addressed the meeting with concerns about the hydraulic fracking issue.
"I am very concerned about this," said Hoke. "The companies that come into our area say they bring in jobs and money, but they fail to say this procedure also brings problems."
"I am concerned the drilling and hydraulic fracking will move the landscape of Tyler County from an agricultural one to an unsustainable industrial landscape," Hoke continued.
"I feel people may not be aware of the dangers involved in the hydro-fracking process," Hoke said. "For example, the process requires about 4 million gallons of water per well. While companies assure us only two per cent of this water contains chemicals, this equates to 80 thousand gallons of chemicals per well."
"Where does that water go? Where do these chemicals go?" she asked. Some of these chemicals are not identified. However, some known carcinogens, toxins, and neurotoxins have been identified. According to a study, "Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective," by Dr. Theo Colburn, which was published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment (an international journal), 632 chemicals have been identified. Ninety-three percent of these chemicals have adverse health effects; sixty percent are known carcinogens and mutagens; and forty percent are classified as endocrine disruptors.
Hoke said, "My deepest concern is that these chemicals affect children and infants. Is this the kind of legacy we want to leave our children?"
""Ignorance is not bliss. I was unaware of the many adverse effects this hydraulic fracking causes," said Hoke. "I have been doing my homework, and, worst case scenario, this practice is detrimental to our water supply, our air quality, our roads, and our health."
"It also puts an extra burden on our first responders, our law enforcement officers, and our fire departments," she added.
"I am here today to ask commission to consider putting policies into place here in Tyler County that would alleviate some of these problems," Hoke suggested. "I hope we as a county can take steps to protect our quality of life."
"It is my feeling that these companies may need to be pressured into taking more safety measures," she added.
"I thank you for hearing my concerns, and I'm depending on you," she told commissioners.
Commission President Smith agreed that the fracking issue is a "double-edged sword".
"As far as policy, I don't know what we can do. This is all new, to all of us," he told Hoke.
"At the state commission meeting, this was a major topic," commented Commissioner John Stender. "It was brought to my attention the state is considering placing a surtax on these companies."
"One suggestion I can offer is to contact your state representatives," added Stender. "Bring these concerns to their attention."
"We've been looking into it," Stender continued, "We will continue to study the issue."
"We want to do what's best for the county," added President Smith. "We will explore our options as to establishing policy."
"Thank you for your concern, and thank you for coming," Smith concluded.
P-Card expenses was the next topic up for discussion. Sheriff Earl Kendle gave commissioners a printout explaining purchases by the department, asking that officers be reimbursed for meals when traveling.
"We don't just travel to Wetzel County," said Kendle. "If we have to send officers on an extended trip, I feel the county should pay for their meals."
County Commissioner Eric Vincent told the sheriff, "We're bound by federal law. The county doesn't have an issue with your request. The Internal Revenue Service considers the matter a taxable fringe benefit, and we don't provide that benefit to any other county employee."
"We operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day," countered Kendle. "We are not like other county employees. Go ahead and tax the purchases, if that is the problem."
"I don't see any real problem with your request," said President Smith. "It's just getting it sorted out so that we are complying with the IRS requirements."
"You may want to speak to them," added Smith.
Sheriff Kendle agreed to contact the IRS representative to see what steps could be taken to remedy the conflict.
Tom Cooper, Tyler Co. Office of Emergency Management Director, next addressed commission concerning vehicle purchases.
Cooper first presented commission with bids received from Lemon and Barrett in Marietta, Ohio. The bids were presented in consideration of purchasing two Polaris ATV vehicles for OEM's usage. The two ATVs will be owned and operated by Tyler County OEM, but will be available for regional activities, as well.
Part of grant funds which OEM has been awarded will be used to purchase the vehicles. The cost of the two vehicles totals almost $29,000, which is reimbursable through the OEM grant.
Commissioner John Stender raised some concerns about the usage of the vehicles and asked Cooper, "This is for the region, right? Do other counties help maintain these vehicles?"
"No, we own them, and though they can be used in the region, we maintain them," replied Cooper.
"Are our volunteers are the only ones covered by our insurance policy?" asked Commissioner Vincent.
"We can't stick the county in a 'what-if' situation as to liability," added Stender. "There are certain perimeters that have to be taken into consideration."
Cooper assured commission that anyone operating an OEM ATV would be required to have safety training.
"This equipment will be manned by Tyler County personnel," said Cooper. "If our services are required in another county, we will send our own personnel to operate the vehicles."
"These ATVs will not be used as playthings," added Cooper.
Commission authorized Cooper's request to negotiate with Lemon and Barrett for the purchases of the vehicles.
Cooper also requested commission considered the purchase of a truck for the department's use, which commissioners took under advisement for future consideration. The purchase of the truck may be eligible for up to a fifty per cent funding reimbursement, according to Cooper. The funding is available for the fiscal year.
Commissioner Eric Vincent next presented budget revisions, among them an in-house revision for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, as well as revisions in the Sheriff's Office and OEM. Vincent noted that $17,127 had been received by the county for reimbursement of money used for the special election, which was placed back into county funds.
John Stender then gave his report to commission, informing members there was an issue concerning royalties from the Poor Farm acreage.
"There are none," said Stender.
"The Poor Farm was deeded to the county in 1915," explained Stender. "However, it has come to our attention records concerning the royalties are incomplete."
"I would suggest we conduct a title search, to protect the county's interests," urged Stender. "As it stands now, we have no funds to undertake repairs on the bridge at 4-H camp."
"If these funds were not put in reserve for some other beneficiary, then the royalties go to the county, as property owner," Stender added. "A title search would furnish answers as to the county's rights concerning royalties."
In other matters, a request from ArtsLink asking commission to draft a resolution supporting the organization was approved and will be signed by Commission President Smith. County Commissioner Eric Vincent recused himself from the discussion, explaining he is currently president of the organization.
William Roberts was re-appointed to a four-year term to the Solid Waste Management Board. Roberts current term expires June 30 of this year.
Commission acknowledged the receipt of two grant awards to the county; one in the amount of $10,000, which will be used for improvements to the 4-H camp dormitories bathroom facilities. The money will be used to upgrade the facilities with new showers, sinks, toilets, and other improvements.
The second grant, in the amount of $20,000, was awarded to the Upper Ohio Valley Conservation District. The UOVCD will use the funds for the installation of a new driveway. Both funds are reimbursable grants through the State.
Commissioners then voted their approval of payment of bills and adjourned the meeting. Those in attendance included: Commissioners Eric Vincent, Charles Smith, and John Stender, Sheriff Earl Kendle, County Clerk Teresea Hamilton and Deputy Clerk Amy Jo Glover, County Assessor Jackson Hayes, Roseanne Eastham, Karen Smith, Carol Kucharski, Carl Kucharksi, Heather Weekley, Chris Hoke and A.T. Tuttle.