By CHAD ABSHIRE
MATEWAN - The Matewan Town Council met Tuesday, and discussed a number of topics, including water projects, confidence in the mayor and the Matewan Massacre.
• After the minutes of the previous meeting and financial reports were passed, Tim Collins, with Veolia Water spoke to the council about manhole lids being stolen from Mary Taylor Mountain. He said that they have been investigating and calling scrapyards.
“This takes away from the town and causes a big safety issue,” Collins said to the council.
The needs of the water and sewer department were also brought up, needing a new guiderail system, which prevents pumps from swaying, a handheld, water pumps and a generator.
Mayor Sheila Kessler asked Jason Allen, project manager for Veolia, what the most important item on that list was.
He paused for a moment, saying that they were all important, but that besides the handheld, the department needed pumps.
“If any sort of raw sewage hits a stream,” Allen said, “there would be trouble from the state.”
• Afterwards, Pat Rawlings, with Triad Engineering, spoke with the council about the Thacker Water Projec, saying that there were no issues and that they would soon submit the proposal to the Public Service Commission. After that, the project could go to bid.
The PSC would have 90 days to act on that, and Kessler said that if it could be submitted by mid-March, it could go to bid in June.
Not all the easements have been finished by the attorney working the project, Stacey Kohari, but they don’t need to be done for submission to the PSC. However, 80 percent must be finished before the project can go to big and 100 percent before the contract can be awarded.
Kessler said it “has been a long time coming,” approximately four years for the Thacker Water Project thus far, “but that’s how water projects always are.”
• The council then discussed damages to a storage’s telemetry panels on Mary Taylor Mountain, that were apparently caused by a contractor.
Kessler said that the insurance company she had been speaking with used the word “depreciation” and would not pay the repairs in full. She said that she spoke with an attorney as to what to say in response, and did so. She, as of the council meeting, had not received a response.
• The council was made aware of the progress on the Newtown Water Project. Thus far, Collins said, 360 feet of four-inch line has been laid. He estimated two more months were needed to finish it.
• Next, the council talked about the payments the town owes to Veolia Water, who apparently wants to increase their bills by 2.5 percent. Kessler said Veolia does this yearly, but that the town can’t afford it at the moment.
“We were underwater before our (water) rate increase,” Kessler said. “We could do this rate increase, but we would be underwater again.”
Even with the way Matewan’s water rate increase works, which gradually rises in a step-up fashion, it still isn’t enough, Kessler said.
The ways to fix it, the mayor said, is to add people to the system or do another rate increase, but that “we can’t do a rate increase every year.”
Kessler suggested that the entire council should meet with Veolia Water to discuss the payment, and also said that this was the first time during the town’s 15-year contract, which expires in 2016, that the town “balked on a price increase.”
However, Kessler praised Veolia, saying that Matewan “would have been worse off without Veolia.”
“We’re bad financially, but good on our equipment because of Veolia,” Kessler said.
That item on the agenda was tabled and will be looked at again in March.
• Matewan Chief of Police David Stratton spoke with the council, saying that the department didn’t see much action in January, but that “February had already exceeded January.” He did not go into detail.
He did, however, say that an officer with the Matewan Police Department, Allen Mounts, of Blackberry City, should be promoted to full-time on April 23 so that he can attend the police academy, or else he’d have to leave the department.
“If we don’t send him, he can’t come back,” Kessler said. It was voted unanimously to send him to the academy, where he will be stay until August.
Jackie Brandon Maynard, of Delbaton, will fill in during his absence, Stratton told the Daily News.
• Stratton also spoke of the Matewan Volunteer Fire Department and reported on Fire Chief Kenny Cox’s condition.
Cox was injured in a car accident Jan. 29, and warrants have been issued for the man who allegedly hit him, for leaving the scene of an accident.
Stratton told the Daily News that the fire chief had a minor head injury and arm and leg contusions, and was recovering at home. Stratton was unsure on when he would return to duty and also said that Mike Preston was the acting chief.
The council has been looking for classes to send Preston to in order to comply with the fire marshal’s office.
• Towards the end of the meeting, councilman David Taylor, who replaced the late Pat Garland on the council, praised Kessler’s “hands-on approach” to how she handled things within the town.
“I call for a vote of confidence,” Taylor said to the council.
It was unanimously passed and the audience applauded the motion.
“That means a lot to me coming from a person who did this job,” Kessler said to Taylor.
• Donna May Paterino, director of the Matewan Massacre drama, spoke to the council last, saying that she needed new items for this year’s productions: ammunition, a new camera, postage money for flyers, costumes and printer ink.
The council passed motions to purchase each item for the production.
Paterino also announced that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin may be in attendance for the May 19 production of the drama, and that State Sen. H. Truman Chafin would be in attendance. President of the UMWA, Cecil Roberts, and his Vice-President, Joe Carter, will also be in attendance and plan to speak to the audience prior to the 11 a.m. show.
She also said that, while, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller could not attend, he replied in a letter that he supported her efforts to secure an amphitheatre for the town.
The Matewan Town Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Matewan Town Hall. The public is invited. The next meeting will be March 13.