BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Commissioners revisited the Gardner Case Number 010920-01 (Warren Tax District – Tax Map 8D – Parcel Number 12,13,14) Thursday morning and heard updates from the West Virginia Department of Highways.
The Order Setting Forth Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law entered on February 11, 2021, provided the property owners with 30 calendar days to take corrective action with respect to the property at issue. This case originated in January 2020 and was submitted to the Commission in August of 2020. On January 8, 2021, a fine of $50 per day was inevitably imposed upon Ms. Gardner and William Philips, the real property owner and personal property owner, following the yearlong battle of improving the condition of the property.
Greg Harris with the Upshur County Safe Structures and Sites Board, along with Commissioner Terry Cutright have visited the property periodically to see if progress on the property had been made. During Thursday’s meeting, following another 30 days they had been given to make improvements, Commissioners agreed that Gardner and Williams will continue paying $50 a day until the property is up to standards. The Commission will discuss the Gardner Case again April 29 at 9:30 a.m.
WV DOH Maintenance Division Highway Administrator Ben Claypool and employee David Oldaker provided an update regarding this matter from their perspective. Claypool explained that they receive complaints/concerns from residents, as well as the county regarding properties such as Ms. Gardner’s. According to Claypool, “We as a DOH are only concerned about what is on the right of way.” Another entity within the DOH addresses illegal salvage yards and illegal signage, but even within this entity, Claypool explained that most properties cannot be addressed by DOH alone. They can issue warnings, but they cannot simply remove items from properties or implement fines.
Claypool added that they have trouble getting anything initiated on the cleanups once warnings to the property owners have been given. “Once we get to a certain point where individuals are ignoring warnings, then we can go through a prosecuting attorney and issue a warrant,” he explained. After that point, the DOH is no longer involved Claypool explained. Therefore, according to Claypool, the DOH needs assistance from County officials, the Prosecuting Attorney, and the Magistrates to actually enforce these mandates.
Claypool referenced an individual who had previously been in front of a Magistrate 11 times regarding his property and only faced one fine of $100. The property has reportedly accumulated more junk, according to Claypool. He explained to Commissioners, “It is up to the County and their wants. If they want these properties cleaned up to help beautify, or because of environmental issues, we need the Prosecuting Attorney and Magistrates to get this done and hold people responsible.” The DOH receives numerous calls seeking help to remove garbage or vehicles from properties, but Claypool explained, “We can’t just go removing vehicles from properties.”
Commissioner Terry Cutright explained to Claypool and Oldaker that the Commission has been implementing $50 a day fine. Although they had given people numerous extensions, he noted that fines will automatically be implemented when these property cases come to County Commission in the future.
County Administrator Carrie Wallace suggested scheduling an informational sharing meeting with the DOH and County entities in order to get everyone on the same page. Claypool and Oldaker added that in the past, they’ve never seen this type of communication amongst all the departments. Claypool explained they have tried several years and “I believe it’s working better now,” he noted. The Commission, DOH, Prosecuting Attorney, and Magistrates plan to have a meeting tentatively in the next few weeks to discuss such issues for the future.
Wiley Creasy was also present for the public hearing to consider evidence related to the possible closure of an unused paper alley located in the Buckhannon District on a portion of Darylene Drive Thursday morning. Given that everything was in order, Commissioners agreed to close the portion of Darylene Drive, requested by Creasy.
Commissioners tabled correspondence from Steve Booth on behalf of Tri County Towing requesting to be placed on the Upshur County Wrecker Rotation List for emergency towing services until they receive proper paperwork.
In other business, Commissioners approved the following agenda items:
James W. Curry Scholarship Announcement and Application for 2021.
Master Equipment Lease-Purchase Agreement and Related Instruments, by and between Country Roads Leasing, LLC. The tax-exempt lease-purchase financing for the acquisition of a 2021 Ford Expedition at 3.1% interest will cost $10,596.79 annually over a period of four years resulting in a total acquisition cost of $42,387.16.
Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program Grant Offer Grant No. 3-54- 0039-036-2021 for the Upshur County Regional Airport in the amount of $9,000.
Correspondence from Lori Ulderich Harvey, Director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network, requesting use of the large pavilion for the West Virginia State University’s Healthy Grandfamilies program free of charge on Tuesday evenings from June 8 to August 17.
Correspondence from Shane Jenkins, President of the WV Strawberry Festival Board of Directors, requesting use of the Courthouse Plaza May 13-16. Mr. Jenkins further requests use of the Sheriff’s Department for associated services and assistance from the E911 Communications Center and Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as necessary.
Correspondence from Shanna Collins, President of the Rock Cave PTO, Inc., requesting the donation of Upshur County Recreational Park pool passes to be used as prizes during the “10 Day Spring Basket and Bag Bash” fundraiser.
Mutual Aid Agreement between the Buckhannon Police Department and the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.
Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility Volunteer Beatrice Simmons.
Request for Applicants: full-time administrative assistant position in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Commission is March 25. The Commission meeting scheduled for April 22, has been cancelled.