County commission addressed by student ambassador

By Hayley M. Cook

June 25, 2014

By Hayley M. Cook


WILLIAMSON - The Mingo County Commission met for its second regularly scheduled meeting of the month Tuesday afternoon. Several matters were discussed at the meeting, which lasted approximately two hours.

Present to speak to the commission was Mingo Central High School student Autumn Barnette, who requested fundraising awareness regarding her selection as a “People to People” Student Ambassador for Mingo County.

Barnette is one of only 20 West Virginia high school students selected for the program, which could take her to the British Isles in the summer of 2015. The journey would take her and other students to historical sites, famous landmarks, and offer unique cultural experiences.

Barnette told the commission her goal is to raise $9,000. She did not request financial assistance but asked to spread awareness and help with fundraising. According to Barnette, the payments to the organization have already started, and she is behind by approximately $2,000.

Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith congratulated Barnette for her achievement, while Commissioner Mike Carter encouraged the press to share Barnette’s story and help her achieve her goal. The commission received a letter written by the high school sophomore and additional information regarding “People to People,” but made no further comments regarding whether or not they would provide financial assistance to Barnette’s cause.

Gary Wallace was present to discuss dogs that have been bothering him. Wallace claimed that his neighbor’s dogs have been destroying his property, killing his chickens and making a mess in his yard. According to Wallace, he has photographic evidence that the dogs have been invading his property daily and, although the dog warden drives by the area on a regular basis, nothing has been done yet.

The commission suggested that Wallace take the photographic evidence to the dog warden, William “Peanut” Queen, who was also present at the meeting and assured all present that the situation would be taken care of if he could be presented with persuasive evidence by Wallace.

Members of both the East Fork and Gilbert volunteer fire departments were present to receive their yearly allotment for the 2014 fiscal year. This allotment was approved to be given by the commission and amounts to $2,500 for both fire departments. It may be used as each respective fire department sees fit.

Skip Sarris, representing the Lenore Volunteer Fire Department, requested financial assistance with its summer festival, which has been held annually for 15 years or longer. Smith approved the request and granted the Lenore VFD $1,000 for the festival.

Mike Tolley, who was present on behalf of the Gilbert Volunteer Fire Department, requested financial assistance for a complete upgrade of the fire department’s radio system.

Tolley said he had called three companies to look at the Gilbert VFD’s radio system and had spent approximately $3,000 on repairs. However, the problem reportedly has persisted and interferes with communications.

In regards to Tolley’s comments, Smith stated “We definitely want to improve communications for Gilbert. I know that is a very serious issue that affects a lot of people, and we do take it seriously here. We want to come up with the most economical and effective method to improve all communications for that area of the county.”

Thoroughly discussed at the meeting was the issue of 911 communications maintenance.

Present was Herb Rice on behalf of Lab-Tronics Inc. to discuss the possibility of being contracted to maintain and work on towers, radio equipment, dispatch consoles and other communication devices that would be used for 911 purposes.

Rice guaranteed that Lab-Tronics Inc. would work to fix any problems and would come twice a year for a thorough maintenance check-up. Rice mentioned that the contract would not cover the cost of power surges, although he assured the commission that power surge-related damage would still be repaired if needed.

The commission discussed the matter and agreed to pay $750 per month to contract Lab-Tronics Inc. The contract is set to go into effect July 1.

The Solid Waste Management Board asked to reappoint member Joe Hatfield, and the commission approved the request.

The amount of $1,822 was granted to Katie Marcum and Brandon Ball regarding fieldhouse labor. The commission honored an ongoing agreement to help get the fieldhouse cleaned and open for public use. Marcum and Ball will match the commission’s contribution to make this happen.

Smith said that, although the Williamson Public Library was set to be placed in the old Williamson High School building, the state Library Board has yet to respond to that request.

Also addressed was the possible location of a “coal heritage museum.”

“For the sake of tourism,” the coal heritage museum’s location was approved to be in the library room in the old Williamson High School building.

Smith said, “Not only will this museum display our coal heritage, it will display our railroad and Hatfield-McCoy heritage. It will potentially become a great tourism destination, giving visitors something else to see while they are here. I’m very excited to get started on this project.”

Also mentioned was an award of $74,588 in grant money to be used for the purchase of 17 mobile and 25 portable radios for law enforcement officials in Mingo County.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for July 15 at 4:30 p.m.