By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - Mingo County Commissioners Greg “Hootie” Smith and David Baisden were present for the May 16 commission meeting and addressed an amended agenda that included several funding requests by various groups and organizations. President John Mark Hubbard was unable to attend.
Commissioner Smith began the meeting by congratulating David Baisden on his success during the 2012 Primary Election.
“Dave is such an important part of the county commission and we are so pleased that he was re-elected to serve another term,” said Smith. “On behalf of President Hubbard and myself, I want to publically congratulate Dave on his win.”
Baisden said that he was humbled by the outpouring of support he had received from the voters of Mingo County, and said that he greatly appreciated the public casting their vote for him to serve them another four years.
The House of Hope, located in the Town of Delbarton, was first on the meeting’s agenda. Spokesperson June Jude approached the commissioners with a funding request that would be utilized to purchase food supplies needed to adequately provide meals for those in need.
“I have looked over your organizations financial report, and I’m pleased to see that you spend wisely,” said Smith. “However; I want to say that I feel you’re paying a greater amount of monthly rent for your building than you should have to.”
Smith spoke of how he personally felt that the amount charged by the building owner, Mountaineer Development, could be reduced considering what the House of Hope does for the community, and the tremendous need in the community for their services.
“You could afford to feed a lot more people if you weren’t paying such a high amount in rent,” the commissioner said. “I understand that you’re in a good location that is accessible from all communities in the county, but if a reduction in the rent isn’t something the landlord is willing to consider, your group may need to take a look at other possible places that would work for you.”
Locations mentioned that might be a consideration included the Varney Community Center and the VFW building in Delbarton. The commissioners told Jude they would write a letter to the charitable organizations landlord, asking if they would lower the monthly rent, and would also meet with them on their behalf if need be. A motion was also made and seconded to provide $2,500 in funding to assist the group in meeting their financial obligations.
“This is an important service to the community and we appreciate all you do,” said Baisden. “Our fear is that as the economy declines, the need for assistance from the public is going to increase and we would like to see you in a location where your rent was less, which would allow you to accommodate more individuals and families in need.”
“We would rather see your money go for food rather than rent.” Legal Aid of West Virginia Director Adrienne Worthy and Legal Aid Attorney Teresa McCune were present during the meeting, requesting funding to assist in keeping the office in Logan County that also serves residents of Mingo open and operational, explaining that the group has experienced a decrease in federal funding in the amount of $85,000.
“Our annual costs for the office that serves Mingo and Logan is $180,000,” said Worthy. “We have cut staffing across the state because of this fact.”
Worthy explained that the first cuts in their budget came in 2003, at which time the Legal Aid “Apple-Red” office formerly located inside the Cinderella Building on Third Avenue was closed.
“We closed all offices except 12, which now serves the entire state,” said the director. “We have been promised funding from settlement the West Virginia Attorney General office acquired during a class- action settlement dealing with foreclosure and mortgage options, and that will be a great help for the remainder of this year.”
Williamson Attorney Diana Carter-Weidel is the Legal Aid representative for Mingo County, and is one of two attorneys and three staff members that include a paralegal that works out of the Logan office. Worthy assured the commissioners that Weidel’s position is secure, and that any funding they provide will be earmarked for Mingo County services.
Commissioner Baisden inquired if the Legal Aid department pay rent at their Logan location, and was informed they do. He remarked that there were several buildings in Mingo County that could provide office space at little or no cost to the group, and added that he felt it was our county’s turn to have the Legal Aid services within its boundaries, since Logan County has reaped the rewards since the Williamson office was closed in 2003.
“That is a matter we could take under consideration,” said Worthy, as she thanked the commission for their assistance of $5,000. Commissioner Smith remarked that he was issuing a challenge to the Logan Commission to do offer the same amount to the group. The Legal-Aid funding will be provided as a draw down, with $2,500 being available now and the same amount in the near future.
“This is a great thing you’re doing for not only Legal-Aid, but for Mingo County,” said McCune. “We certainly appreciate it.”
The Burch Middle School Football Boosters were granted $1,500 in funding to use toward the purchase of equipment and uniforms, and a matching amount was given to the Mingo Central High School football program to assist with the purchase of a throwing machine.
Bill Richardson, the West Virginia University Extension Professor who has been the master-mind behind a number of successful projects that have centered on the Hatfield-McCoy feud, provided the commissioners with information they had requested about the cost of advertising the bus tours Richardson offers that includes sites that revolve around the historical feud that has now gained national notoriety.
Richardson spoke about the bus-tour publication that he felt would provide the most “bang for your buck” advertising, commenting that more than 20,000 subscribers plan their trips based on ads placed with the magazine.
I would like to place an ad in their August addition and in either October of November,” said Richardson. “These target the months when most tours are scheduled.”
A total of $4,000 in funding for the advertising was approved by the commission.
Richardson also expressed his appreciation to Commissioner Baisden who served as the bus driver for a group of ten people with the West Virginia State Department of Tourism, who visited Mingo County to see for themselves what the tours promoting the feud include.
“We were extremely pleased with the visit from the Tourism Department, we’ve been trying to accomplish this feat for quite a while,” said Richardson. “We utilized the Judge’s Work Program van and Dave did a great job as our driver. I feel it went really well.”
“The funding you’re providing for advertising is an investment,” said Richardson. “This is money that won’t go away, but will come back to us many times over.”
The Extension Professor also reminded the commissioners that the opening day for the Williamson Farmer’s Market will be Saturday, May 26. The market will be open every Saturday through the summer and early fall, and encouraged everyone to come out and support this event.
There will soon be an addition to the courthouse, in the section nearest to the Mountaineer Hotel that won’t cost the county anything. According to Smith, Williamson sports alumni Bill Craig who was a former stand-out athlete and now resides in Huntington, has raised the money to purchase two black marble benches that will be engraved with his class member’s names and those of former WHS coaches.
The Williamson Garden Club, who maintain the lawn, agreed to the placement of the benches and feel it will not only add to the beauty of the location, but will also add seating for the public.
The Gilbert Kiwanis was awarded $800 for the Gilbert Majorette group, and draw-downs from the grants previously awarded for several of the Upward Bound and Stop Coalition programs were agreed upon.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the County Commission will be held on June 6, at 9 a.m.