Before the Wetzel County Commission faced a standing-room only audience at their Tuesday morning meeting, they unanimously passed a motion to send a letter to current campers at the Wetzel County 4-H Grounds, requiring them to vacate the property by June 1.
The approximately dozen people in attendance at the meeting were concerned about the presence of campers, largely out-of-state gas workers, during summer activities on the grounds-most specifically 4-H camp. Commission Vice President Bob Gorby said the letter was drawn up by Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught on April 9. The letter will give the month-to-month tenants more than one full month notice before they need to vacate the grounds.
"For the safety of the kids, it wasn't right to even start it," said Steve Young. "It's not worth the money to jeopardize the kids' safety or fun."
Gorby said they made the decision to evict the campers a couple weeks ago, adding, "We're in the talking stage now on the short-term thing." He was referring to possibly limiting camping to a two- to three-week stay at a time.
Shanon Heddleson suggested that a letter assuring parents that the campers would be gone during 4-H camp be included in the packet sent from the West Virginia University Extension office to potential campers. Commissioner Scott Lemley called that office during the meeting and asked them to do just that.
While the June 1 date does clear the camp for 4-H camp and other organized events, it does not cover the horse camp to be held May 4-6. "I don't have a problem as long as they stay over on that side," said Camp Organizer Christina Booher, referring to the camper side of the grounds, with the road between Gamble Shelter and the stage serving as the dividing line.
"There is a safety issue," said Booher of having campers and particularly large trucks near the horses. "I know none of them intentionally want to hurt a child," she continued, but they could hit a child in the dark or the diesel engines could scare the horses and get the campers hurt. She estimated there would be approximately 15 youngsters at the horse camp.
The commissioners agreed that they would have the groundskeeper make sure there are no campers on that side of the grounds during the horse camp and then the side roads could be blocked and main gate locked so campers would not be able to drive into that half of the grounds. The campers can use the upper road to access their area.
"I think you've done what you can do to help us. That's all we can ask for," said Booher.
In another matter at the meeting, Merle Lemasters for Town and Country Days, the annual week-long fair held on the 4-H grounds, asked the commission to allow his group to install a permanent fence on the upper side of the 4-H Camp. It would be from the north gate down to the arts and crafts building on the upper side, below the road. It would tie into the chain link fence already at the crafts building. He further said they would put in gates as needed-particularly by the Mollohan Center.
"We want to make it as good as possible," said Lemasters, adding that it would be part of their capital improvement to the grounds. "We like to try to improve it every year, some way, some how," he noted.
Each year Town and Country Days puts up a rental chain link fence and incurs the cost-last year it had an approximate $2,000 price tag. Lemasters said a permanent fence would not only help the fair, but probably groundskeeper Bob Sellers as well.
Gorby and Lemley said they don't have a problem with the project, but want to wait until President Don Mason is in attendance to weigh in on the decision before making a motion and voting on the matter.
Dana Indemuhle of Swiss Valley Associates also spoke with the commission. He addressed the lighting upgrade project at the courthouse that will change out 306 lighting fixtures. He said they have no choice but change some of the fixtures that are not appropriate-they could create a fire hazard.
Indemuhle's proposal included various specifications, including requiring that the fixtures be made by a company that has been in the business for over 20 years. "It seems like everybody and their brother can make a lighting fixture," said Indemuhle of the reasoning for the requirement, saying they wanted to use products from a company who has proven themselves.
The project will be advertised in the legal section of the newspaper next week with a bid opening planned at the May 22 commission meeting. "I think there will be a lot of interest in this job," said Indemuhle. "It's great work."
He further told the commission that the project specifies that the work must take place during non-office hours. "I have them completely working around your schedule. They won't be working when you're working," said Indemuhle.
Also, the Little Kanawha Resource, Conservation, and Development handed out two mini grants during Tuesday's commission meeting. A grant for $250 was given to the Wetzel County 4-H and FFA Livestock Club for upgrades in the show arena in the barn at the 4-H grounds. Also, a $750 grant went to the Paden City Senior Citizens for new drapes in the senior center. "The ones that they had were thread bare," said Shirley Michael of the LKRC&D.
Andrew Bottolfson of Antero Resources approached the commission about possible leasing the mineral rights on the Woods property and 4-H grounds. He said the county owns half of the mineral rights on the 61-acre Woods property and all of the rights in the 4-H grounds' 36 acres.
"Anything would have to be non-surface," said Lemley. They also said there would need to be a depth restriction and royalties would need to be gross, at the well head.
Bottolfson said they are currently doing 18 percent royalty, gross, at the well head and offering a lease payment of $2,000 per acre, but a non-surface lease $1,500 per acre.
He said Antero is very involved in Tyler and Ritchie counties. "We're a pretty big company based out of Colorado," said Bottolfson.
Finally, in accordance with law, the commission unanimously approved the Wetzel County levy rate for both the regular and excess levies for 2012-2013.
Jesse Long, Eliza Cain, Lisa Sidenstricker, and Colby Sidenstricker of Wetzel County 4-H and FFA Livestock Club; Bob Gorby of Little Kanawha Resource, Conservation, and Development; Joan Billiter, president of the Paden City Senior Citizens Happy Timers; and Shirley Michael of the LKRC&D.