County officials approve Farmland Protection purchase, other actions

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County Commissioners on September 6 approved the purchase of a 123-acre agricultural easement by the Morgan County Farmland Protection Board along Winchester Grade Road. The easement, which puts the farm into permanent agricultural use, will cost the board $1,500 per acre, for a total of $185,115 out of local Farmland Protection funds.

That money comes from real estate transfer fees every time a piece of property is sold in Morgan County. Farmland Protection Board director Ginger Roksandich said this will make the 20th easement purchased by
the county board. Commissioner Joel Tuttle said
that after the easement settlement, Morgan County’s Farmland Protection Board will still have $1,045,00 in its accounts to continue to protect agricultural land from development.

Commissioners also approved the appointment of Berkeley County attorney Daniel Staggers as a new fiduciary commissioner for Morgan County. He will assist with the resolution of estates in Morgan County if needed.

Commissioners agreed to pay $1,450 for the upgrade of an IBM system used by the Sheriff’s Tax Office to process all tax payments.

Commissioner Bill Clark asked his fellow commissioners to come up with a list of projects and priorities to discuss with West Virginia legislators ahead of the 2024 Legislative Session.

Clark said one issue to bring before delegates and senators would be ways to attract and retain volunteer firefighters for Morgan County’ s four stations.

“You can put all the money you want in, but volunteerism is the most important factor for us,” said Clark.

He suggested that West Virginia could look at a $6,000 tax credit like Maryland offers its firefighters, among other steps.

“I think we ought to do some things to entice volunteers,” Clark said.

Commissioner Tuttle asked if the Eastern Panhandle would revive its legislative roundtable event, where elected officials from Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties could talk about regional concerns.

“I think it’s prudent to do it,” he said.

In other business, commissioners went into Executive Session with bidders on a project to upgrade the county’ s emergency paging system. Commissioners said some of the discussion could include proprietary technical and business details, so each bidder had a time slot to talk with commissioners in closed session about their proposals. Commissioners did not choose a winning proposal after the closed session.