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Are officials wearing rose-colored glasses?

July 13, 2013
The Inter-Mountain


In a time when our once-great nation is on the verge of a financial implosion, it is truly gratifying to know the city of Elkins, Randolph County, the Randolph County Board of Education, the Randolph County Development Authority and the Mountain State Forest Festival are basking in the "Days of Wine and Roses." How have I arrived at that conclusion?

At the May 2 Elkins Council meeting, past MSFF Director Bob Woolwine called for an executive session on a real estate matter, with Robbie Morris, RCDA, and Mark Tomblyn, MSFF, brought into the session.

Ninety minutes later, Mayor Van Broughton stated, "no action was taken. We're listening. There will be further discussions." And City Clerk Sutton Stokes said, "The city needs to analyze what its capabilities are."

On May 16, the Randolph County Commission unanimously decided to pursue further negotiations for possible purchase of the Elkins National Guard Armory. The article stated a feasibility study showed the building in good repair. "It's time to move forward," Commissioner MikeTaylor said. Apparently Mr. Taylor didn't go to the same feasibility meeting that I did.

I attended the January feasibility study presentation. Evidently, I was the only one there who heard the three-step process: 1) minor repairs - $500,000; 2) major repairs - $1.2 million; and 3) 6,400 square foot addition at $250/square feet -$1.67 million. plus or minus. This is above and beyond the purchase price which, when asked, Delegate Bill Hartman (thanks, Pocahontas County) responded not to worry about the asking price. He could get a "real" deal, but action had to be taken as soon as possible. I assume prospective buyers were already lining up.

I never had any reason to become involved in city issues until 2005 when a paving and drainage fiasco on Sylvester Drive directly affected me to the tune of $3,263.25.

West Virginia State Code 8-18-1 empowers municipalities to pave streets and assess costs of improvements to abutting property owners, which in this case ranged from $2,034.19 to $10,577.79.

I refused to pay, was taken to "kangaroo court," lost and filed a complaint with the West Virginia Board of Registration for Professional Engineers. It found sufficient evidence to file a complaint. I notified the city, got no response and filed the complaint myself.

After an April 22, 2010, letter from Steptoe & Johnson citing an "expert witness report" which, in part, stated it would cost $98,500 to fix just the visible deficiencies, the city finally filed suit.

In 2012 (seven years later), a consent order was reached whereby the contractor was to do "repair work." This repair work didn't even address the deficiencies in the "expert witness report." And as of the date of this letter, the repair work has yet to be completed.

I have cited this personal experience as one example as to how the city has shown its ineptness and total disregard for handling even small ($167,000) city projects.

Another example is the Elkins-Randolph County landfill debacle. The Tygart Valley Youth Group website states city and county officials, due to conflict of interest, corruption or special interests, have stonewalled Steve Kerns and his efforts to expand the recycling program in Randolph County, even after his efforts, almost singlehandedly, have saved the county residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. Contradiction by local officials on multiple issues - electronic recycling, misuse of public and grant funds, city yard waste collection, discarded furniture and tires and disregard for state agencies - are some of the topics Steve will address at a later date on his website.

The city of Elkins has loaned itself $60,000 to keep the landfill afloat. Landfill Committee Chairman Carman Metheny, is this an "interest-free" loan or are you charging yourself the same interest rate (7 percent) that the kangaroo court imposed on my Sylvester Drive paving and drainage fee? Also, my monthly sanitation charge is $19.54. Multiply just that by the thousands of city customers; where has that money disappeared to?

And now there is the continuing saga of the new water plant. After getting more than $2 million from the city for consulting and design fees and the constant reassurance from Operations Manager Bob Pingley that work was progressing, for some reason the presentations to city council have a couple of minor flaws: 1) the plant won't fit; and 2) the plant is lower than Bear Hunter Mountain. But, not to worry! With a couple of change orders, add-ons and, naturally, since this was in no way the fault of the consultant, more redesigning fees with be forthcoming and maybe, just maybe, the design will be done right.

In conclusion, BOE, city and county employees and county taxpayers from Monterville, Harman, Pickens, Mabie, Montrose, Elkins and all other surrounding communities, drive by the antiquated monstrosity and take a good look at what our elected officials will be, directly or indirectly, proposing to spend our tax dollars on.

It looks to me that the "Days of Wine and Roses" are going to turn into the "Days of Whine and Hose-us."

Vic White




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