Harrison County Commission approves voting precinct changes

Harrison

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Harrison County Commission had a full agenda for its meeting Wednesday morning, discussing multiple projects throughout the county.

Commissioners approved changes to voting precincts in two different parts of the county.

Shinnston Mayor Patrick Kovalck asked for a boundary line change for Shinnston’s “downtown” precinct, explaining to the commissioners that the downtown area of Shinnston used to have a higher population density, but in recent years residents of the town have moved to different areas, and the ward no longer supports enough voter turnout.

Kovalck also told commissioners that filling the city council’s position for that ward has been difficult due to lack of interested individuals; with the change in ward boundaries, Kovalck said, it would balance out the numbers between that ward and east Shinnston, which is the largest of the town’s wards.

Commission President Susan Thomas said that she didn’t see any reason to vote against the change, as the voter population would be within parameters of the state and county code; a motion to approve the ward boundary change was approved unanimously.

A request to merge two precincts in the North View area of Clarksburg. Commissioner Patsy Trecost stated that precincts 78(Emmanuel Baptist Church) and 80(St. James school gym) were within three blocks of one another and that the population of the two precincts still would not overtake the highest-population precincts.

As a result of the precinct consolidation, everyone within the two precincts would have to update their voter registration card; after the discussion, the motion passed unanimously, thus merging Harrison County precincts 78 and 80.

Work on new county buildings:

A discussion of the work to be done at 603 W Main St. and 633 Pike St., both buildings that will be used by the Sheriff’s Department, resulted in the commission’s review recommending the Thrasher Group to work on the buildings.

Rail Trail Funding:

Commissioners also discussed a consideration to move funds from the south rail trail, a project whose bid came in under budget, to the north rail trail, whose bid came in over budget.

The commissioners stated that there were no issues moving funds between the two rail trail projects because the funds had already been allocated in the commission’s budget, and the request would only need to be a change order.

Due to construction not being started on the north rail trail project, the state has no line items available to show where the funds would be allocated. Upon a vote of the change order there was no opposition and the voted passed.

Commissioner David Hinkle asked for more details as to what the funding would be used for and how much the county commission would have to match from its funding, to which Parker replied that the state was in charge of funding for the project and could not allocate funds until the county approved the funding.

Planning Department:

The Commission approved the creation of a planning department to increase communication between the county’s public service districts and the county commission. Commissioners stated that many PSDs do not send the commission their meeting minutes or communicate projects or other information to the commission.

Creation of this planning department would allow for a monthly update to be given to the commission.

Added to the creation of the planning department was the designation that the county’s current grants and special projects department to be given the responsibility of being the planning department. Thomas stated that she believed that office would be the best department to do so due to the employees’ prior experience in that field.

County Engineer:

Upon a request for the county to hire an engineer, Hinkle asked for clarification on the hiring before a vote should take place; he asked what they would include in the job description, what the rate of pay would be, the reasoning for hiring an engineer, as well as other clarifications.

Trecost stated that the engineer was necessary in helping with drainage, ditching, demolition, project consideration and could work in accordance with the newly created PSD review board. Hinkle then explained that other counties in the area contract out engineers and that the counties which do have engineers on their payroll have zoning codes which the engineer can enforce.

“We have to have people around who can help us move forward, and that’s what this is for,” Trecost said of the commission needing to hire an engineer.

Hinkle stated that he would like, if the county were to hire an engineer, for the candidate to be a dual engineer and surveyor; he also asked to table the discussion until commissioners could discuss what they would like to see in the position’s description. The vote to table the discussion was approved unanimously.

Benedum Airport Authority:

Hinkle gave a report on the Benedum Airport Authority, during which he stated that due to the commission’s lack of designating board members to serve on the authority, Marion County currently held a majority.

Hinkle urged the commission to appoint representative as soon as possible so the authority could begin to work in earnest. The appointment of representative was tabled until the next commission meeting.

County Attorney:

A motion to consider an attorney engagement letter from Simmerman Law Office was approved with all commissioners in favor.

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