Commissioners to endorse joint resolution
Members of Tyler County Commission announced their intention to support an economic development plan for the Upper Ohio Valley in Tuesday’s regular meeting. Commission President Charles “Pork” Smith informed commissioners he would be among those signing a joint resolution at West Virginia Northern Community College in the afternoon.
“The West Virginia northern county commissioners have drawn up a Marcellus Shale Joint Resolution,” explained Smith. “We are joining forces to help coordinate the future development of our natural resources.”
Smith explained to the commission the northern counties – Tyler, Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, and Hancock – are working to keep jobs and industry local. Opportunities arising from the oil and gas production at the Marcellus site are currently under discussion across the state.
“There is an effort by other areas of the state to relocate jobs,” noted Smith, who told commission state officials were seeking to build a cracker plant in Institute.
“What they want to do is put 150 miles of pipeline between here and Institute, and have the processing plant there,” said Smith. “We feel that the industry should stay here in the area.”
Smith noted the construction of the plant would employ 3,000-4,000 construction workers, and upon completion, would employ 300-400 workers. Cost of construction could easily top $1 billion.
Shell Oil released plans last month to build a cracker plant to process the ethane from Marcellus Shale natural gas in the Appalachian region, but has not decided where to build. “Building an ethane-based cracker in Appalachia would unlock significant gas production in the Marcellus region by providing a local outlet for the ethane,” said Ben van Beurden, executive vice president, Shell.
A cracker breaks down large molecules from oil and natural gas into smaller ones that are used to manufacture chemicals.
Smith, who attended a meeting of the Upper Ohio Valley Development Authority last week, said legislators, delegates, and state senators were not supportive of northern region.
“We had a very lively discussion with delegates,” commented Smith. “We didn’t get a commitment from them (to support development locally).”
“We don’t want the same thing to happen, that happened with coal mining, where they ship it out, and we get nothing,” he added.
The announcement of the plan to locate in Institute “came out of nowhere,” said Smith.
“We’re going to fight for it,” he said. “We want to keep job opportunities here in our region. We want to pursue the creation of jobs for our citizens.”
Commission noted United States Senators from West Virginia had not been supportive of the local effort as well. It was also mentioned the northern region had only one delegate on the state’s Marcellus Shale Commission, commenting “there are more people from Texas on it” than from this area.
In a statement released by the joint county committee, Bernard Kazienko, President, Brooke County Commission, said, “Throughout West Virginia’s history, natural resources have been taken from regions with little or no investment taking place and without the production of job opportunities past the extraction stage of the industry process. We believe the communities where the natural resources is being produced must benefit as well.”
In other matters, commission addressed a concern about insurance coverage for volunteer workers. Brick Street, the county employee insurer, was unclear about covering those workers. According to OEM director Tom Cooper, emergency volunteers are classified as unpaid county employees, and as such, should be covered.
“If nothing has changed in the policy, they would be covered,” Cooper said.
Cooper also submitted an agreement with Harrison County to be signed by commissioners. Harrison County is the fiscal agent for the Homeland Security grants acquired in the region. Tyler County is the sub-grantee. Part of these funds have recently been used to purchase an emergency generator and radios for the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office. Commission approved the signing of the agreement.
Commission also approved sending a proxy vote, rather than attend the statewide Brick Street annual meeting, to be held in White Sulphur Springs at the end of the month.
The consolidation of all grants into a central location at the Tyler County Courthouse was addressed by the commission. Grant funding in excess of $500,000 must be audited by the state, as is mandated by federal law.
“We want to get a head start, before it reaches that point,” said President Smith. “What we would need would be a copy of the grants, for the current year.”
Commission took the matter under advisement.
County Assessor Jack Hayes informed commission the rabies clinic had gone well. “Almost 500 people participated,” he said, “and several went ahead and purchased their dog’s tags at the clinics.”
Minutes, exonerations, revisions, and the clerk’s fiduciary report were all approved by commission. The next scheduled meeting of Tyler County Commission will be held Tuesday, August 9, at the Courthouse.