Commissioners hear concerns from library board and Sandyville broadband project

Suzette Lowe
Special to the Jackson Herald
Commissioners Mitch Morrison and Dick Waybright were presented a symbolic American Recovery Plan check at an earlier event by Senator Joe Manchin.

If a large cardboard check is evidence, then the Jackson County Commission is assured of $5.54 million in direct payment from the American Rescue Plan.

Specific guidelines have not been released by the federal government. The general uses for the funds will be sewer, water and broadband.

“We will have to know something more specific soon,” said county attorney Eric Holmes. “The first half of the payment comes on May 10.”

Commissioners Dick Waybright and Mitch Morrison voted to create Fund #207 to handle those funds once received. Commissioner Mike Randolph was unable to attend.

December’s Cares Act monies were approved for use at the April 14 meeting. New mobile communication devices will be purchased from those funds for the county’s 911 center, emergency medical services and sheriff’s department.

Tanner Communications, the only company to submit a bid for $183,900, received the award subject to review of the contract.

“Once we get these in place, we will have one of the best communication systems in the region,” said Montana Boggess, 911 director. “Right now, there are times it’s difficult to hear using the current equipment. This puts our people in unnecessary danger. Within three months, we should be up and running.”

One project that is not proving to be as well-used as expected is the Sandyville broadband project which was funded by a Community Development Block Grant.

Luke Peters, from the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, said that the tower that has been installed had 100 households interested at one point. So far, only seven customers have signed up with the Route21 service.

“We are trying to spread the word,” Peters said. “It may be a name recognition issue. It also could be that people do not realize that Route21 also offers phone and cable as well. Sharing information about this project will be a top priority.”

Peters did have good news regarding the southern Jackson water project.

“We hope to bid the project in May,” he said. “We’re working on the right-of-ways which is the last step before that can take place.”

Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger updated commissioners on a building project that had previously been discussed in closed-door executive session. A law enforcement training facility is something the sheriff’s department is exploring.

“We are talking to both Parchment Valley Conference Center and also investigating land owned by the county Solid Waste Authority,” Mellinger said. “This project is only in its infancy stage, but we are moving forward.”

The last group to address the commission said a ‘new day has dawned.’

Members of the Jackson County Library Board, along with interim director Carla Long, gave an update on the positive changes and challenges facing the two county libraries.

Suzy McGinley, board president, said the library is now fully open for service but still offers curbside delivery for those not comfortable coming into the building. Meeting rooms are also available for reservations.

The current board, whose five members were all appointed about a year ago when the previous board resigned as a group, has made huge strides according to member Denise Toler.

“We have dealt with some physical issues at the Ravenswood branch,” she said. “Those include a new HVAC system and roof repair. We have taken care of some financial obligations as well. Our former director, John Faria, resigned to take a new position and we now have long-time employee Carla Long at the helm.”

The Ripley building needs serious repair.

Katrena Ramsey, who has worked closely with the Ravenswood issues, said a new HVAC is needed at Ripley along with window repair, roof drain and other issues.

“These are going to be quite expensive, and we need some assistance,” she said. “An endowment paid for the majority of the Ravenswood work, but Ripley does not have that option.”

Commissioner Waybright asked that estimates be presented at a future meeting. At that time, the request will be taken into consideration. The excess levy for the library may contain some portion of the funding needed.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Approved a resolution presented by Torie Jackson recognizing West Virginia University at Parkersburg for its 60th anniversary and contribution to higher education.
  • Approved hiring Evan Bain as a part-time worker at the Jackson County Animal Shelter effective immediately.
  • Approved the financial aid agreement and rapid response contract with the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department for FY 2021-2022 which provides $26,000 from the general fund and $6,000 form the ambulance levy.

A five-minute closed-door executive session with Walt Smittle, Office of Emergency Services director, for financial purposes occurred with no action taken.

The next meeting of the commission will be April 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse.