Commissioners name members for Marcellus Shale study group
Recommending two members each, the Morgan County Commissioners filled out the new Marcellus Shale study group, which has been tasked with creating preliminary ideas for how to educate local residents about the controversial drilling technique being used to tap natural gas reserves in the region.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson has taken the lead in forming the group, and will be a non-voting member of the committee.
Hutchinson recommended Carol Coryea and Linda Kjeldgaard for seats on the committee.
Commission President Stacy Dugan picked Jim Hoyt and Larry Schultz for the group. Commissioner Brad Close selected Mark Hann, and said he is still searching for his second committee nominee.
Hutchinson suggested the board have the ability to select their own chairperson. She said she would arrange the first meeting of the group soon.
“Thank you for taking the lead on that,” said Dugan.
“Water is an issue close to my heart. Even if there’s no drilling here in Morgan County, there is the still the possibility of contamination of our water,” said Hutchinson.
Apple Orchard Acres water
In other business, Commissioner Close gave an update about the recently-formed taskforce created by the Morgan County Board of Health over water issues at a local subdivision.
Roughly 45 homes in the Apple Orchard Acres subdivision off of Tabor Road are served by a community water supply system that is run by a private company, Valley Water & Sewer, from Jefferson County.
Earlier this month, residents approached the Health Board with concerns about their water quality and a repeated lack of water to their homes.
Homeowners have been told by Valley Water & Sewer that improvements to the aging water system aren’t possible because the owner is losing money there.
The board agreed to intervene, calling it a “public health matter.”
The taskforce gathered to talk about solutions to the water shortage and quality last week, Close said.
The owner of the system, Lee Snyder, attended the meeting, said Close.
“He stated several times he would convey title to the system over to the homeowners association,” said Close. “But that wouldn’t be a win for anybody.”
Close said the taskforce is trying to get the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) to attend a meeting. That state agency oversees the operation of public and private utility companies.
After dismissing two formal complaints against Valley Water & Sewer at Apple Orchard Acres, the PSC authorized Snyder to raise water rates in the subdivision this spring.
Close said water service is still insufficient, and monthly costs to residents have shot up.
“In some cases, they’re paying up to five times for their service,” Close reported.
A discussion by county officials about the fate of a $200,000 line of credit turned into a further loan payoff for the county.
Commissioner Dugan suggested the county close a line of credit it had maintained for several years, but hadn’t used.
Close and Hutchinson said the credit line didn’t cost the county anything, and could be useful in a pinch.
Commissioner Close then suggested that they draw on the credit line to pay off a higher-interest loan on the Sheriff’s Office (former Magistrate Court) on the corner of Mercer and Fairfax Streets.
The credit line interest stands at 3.25%, while the county pays 4.75% interest on the building loan.
The commissioners agreed to make the move, pulling money from the credit line to pay off the building loan. They will apply the monthly loan payment of $3,500 to the credit line instead.
Tower agreement drafted
Starting now, the Morgan County Commissioners will ask any private or public group that uses their 911 tower space to sign a formal agreement setting out rules for the arrangement.
Recently, 911 Director Dave Michael asked officials to consider letting SkyWeb, a local broadband provider, place a router on their 911 tower in Cacapon Mountain to expand their services.
SkyWeb lets Morgan County 911 keep radio equipment on their private tower for free elsewhere in the county, said Michael.
Michael drafted a model agreement, which the Commissioners said they would refer to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office for review.
“I do believe any entity that uses our towers or buildings should have a formal written agreement with the County Commission, for future reference and to protect ourselves,” said Michael.
A local resident had expressed concern about adding traffic to the access road leading to the Cacapon Mountain tower, saying road clearing to reach the 911 tower during heavy snow two years ago had left the access road severely rutted.
Michael said there would be no additional traffic to the tower, since SkyWeb and Morgan County use the same technician to service the tower.
He denied that snow-clearing by the National Guard during the 2010 blizzards had damaged the road, which also accesses a remote subdivision in the area.
Michael said heavy rains and snow melt damaged the rough road.
“If we would have done damage, we would have fixed it,” he said.
Michael said his office has to maintain access to the tower to maintain a back-up generator that supplies power to the radio equipment when the tower’s solar panels don’t generate enough electricity.