by KATE SHUNNEY
Morgan County Commissioner Joel Tuttle will again serve as the president of the commission, county officials decided on Monday. At the first meeting of the 2021 County Commission, Tuttle was chosen to lead the county board as he begins a second elected term.
Newly-appointed commissioner William “Bill” Clark took office on January 4. Clark was sworn in by County Clerk Kim Nickles prior to the Monday-morning organizational meeting.
Clark said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve the county again, but in another capacity.
“It’s a gift, no doubt, being able to come back home,” he said.
Clark worked for the last seven years in Martinsburg as the Executive Director of the Region 9 Planning & Development Council. Before that, he worked for Morgan County government in several different positions for 28 years.
Clark said he is used to working “behind the scenes” and being an elected officials will be a change for him.
“I appreciate it and it’s really humbling,” he said.
Commissioners set their meeting and holiday schedule for 2021, selected which boards they will serve on to represent county government and signed paperwork to update signature cards for the county’s bank accounts to remove Ken Reed and add Clark as a signatory.
Reed resigned from the final two years of his commission term last month to take his elected seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
In a short agenda of county business, commissioners approved two more requests from local agencies seeking money from the Governor’s Block Grants – a grant of $200,000 that was given to each of the state’s counties last year to cover some COVID-19-related costs.
Commissioners agreed to fund a request for $5,567.21 for Senior Life Services to cover the cost of disposable paper and aluminum food containers used to feed county seniors in a local meal program.
They also approved $2,537.66 to the Shenandoah Community Health Foundation to cover costs of Starting Points Mealtime Kitchen food supplies and computer services for the Behavioral Health center in order to provide telehealth support to clients in Morgan County.
Back in December, county officials approved three other grants under this state block of money — $9,835.20 for the Morgan County Backpack Program for food given to local schoolchildren, $4,525 to the Boys & Girls Club for storage equipment for their feeding efforts and $9,300 to Senior Life Services for storage equipment and thermal bags for hot food delivery around the county to older residents.
In other business, commissioners held the first public discussion about their intent to apply for a HUD/Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to pay for tower upgrades to improve broadband internet services in Morgan County.
A previous grant had paid for a study listing all of the county’s public and private towers that could hold broadband equipment to expand high speed internet services across the county.
Commissioner Clark, who has extensive experience with CDBG grant proposals, said the federal funds have to be used in low to moderate income census blocks. Morgan County has “two good swaths” where that money could be used, he said. Those include areas west of Cacapon Mountain –except the Town of Paw Paw – and sections south of Route 9.
Clark said a grant employee with Region 9 will work to take the county’s tower improvement projects and fit them into the grant eligibility.
The grant must be submitted by the end of January. It could range from $100,000 to $300,000 to pay for the cost of raising a tower, local poles and installing equipment on towers to broadcast broadband internet signals to areas not being served now.
A second public hearing on the grant application will be set by county officials.