Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.

Commission directs PSD to keep Sharp Farm off the table

Thursday March 6, 2008
The Pocahontas Times

By Pamela Pritt, Editor

Nearly three years to the day after Tom Shipley first came to a county commission meeting to ask them not to use his family's property, commissioners voted to grant his wish Tuesday.

In a resolution hashed out for more than an hour, the commission voted unanimously to resolve and direct the Pocahontas County Public Service District that there "shall be no use of the Sharp Farm" for the Slaty Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant. The commission further directed the PSD to avoid eminent domain when proceeding with site selection for the embattled plant.

Commission president James Carpenter and commissioner Reta Griffith maintained the directive had "no teeth" and that the PSD could refuse to comply. Commissioner Martin Saffer said if they didn't, the commission could sue the PSD.

"I'm so relieved, so happy," Shipley said. "We want a solution for the community and we know there's one out there. We are so thankful and grateful to everyone who supported us from the regular folks up to Washington, DC.

"We will never be able to pay the goodwill and support we've received."

Last week, Carpenter announced at a PSD meeting that three sites are now in the running for the plant; however, PSD attorney Tom Michael said he could not unequivocally say the plant would not go on the Sharp Farm, but that he had been directed to look elsewhere for a location.

That prompted Saffer to put eminent domain on the commission's agenda this week.

He called eminent domain the "hottest poker in the fire," suggesting that if the issue were off the table, discussion could move forward about a workable solution for the problem.

Carpenter said he believed the PSD is moving in that direction without orders from the commission.

"I'm real happy Snowshoe stepped up to the plate," Carpenter said. "I don't believe the Sharp Farm will have to be used."

The resort owns two of the proposed properties for the plant, including one along U.S. Rt. 219 and another off Rt. 66. The third property belongs to the State of West Virginia.

Griffith agreed with Carpenter that the PSD seemed to be moving in that direction anyway.

"My position is to support the PSD," she said. "Their direction is what the Sharp Family wants"

Shipley said as much and said he was grateful for the new direction the PSD and the commission were taking.

"My family supports a regional solution to our wastewater need," he said. "We beg you humbly, respectfully, please take us out of this misery."

Shipley and his family have spent nearly every day since March 5, 2005, pointing out problems with the site on their farm including karst topography, the accompanying cave system that transports groundwater and that the receiving stream is dry for a portion of the year.

Commissioners offered each other hypothetical situations and analyses of Snowshoe's existing treatment plant for the emotional forerunner of the resolution.

Carpenter said all three are moving toward the same goal, but have taken different approaches.

Public purpose needs legal definition

While building commission members voted last week to manage county property, it did so with the knowledge some county property is burdened with deed restrictions.

One of those restrictions is public purpose in the case of the former Hanover Shoe Factory. Another is economic development on the industrial site at Green Bank.

Public purpose has recently been defined by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to say that a parking garage in Charleston is public purpose even if owned by a private entity, according to Prosecuting Attorney Walt Weiford.

Carpenter wants to help out a Marlinton business on a temporary basis by allowing fertilizer to be stored at Riverside Industrial Park for five months. Commissioners voted unanimously to advertise a public sale of lease for the building at its next meeting.

Two business concerns want to locate in the building, Carpenter said, providing up to about a dozen jobs.

Saffer questioned if generation of jobs would filled the bill for public purpose, but that query went unanswered.

"I want someone to tell me what public purpose means," Carpenter said.

The commission president said a lawsuit might garner the definition the commission wants.

In other business, the commission:

  • voted to contribute $500 to the North Central Community Action Fishing Derby.
  • voted to write a letter of support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant.
  • voted to meet with other elected officials to discuss a courthouse drug use policy.
  • approved budget revisions for Title III money and for 911 Communications.
  • sent a memo to Sheriff Robert Alkire that his overtime budget has only $200. Commissioners said overtime would not be paid unless the sheriff requested a budget revision for law enforcement.
  • agreed to be the administrative body for a grant to improve High Rocks Academy's water system.
  • discussed changing its insurance policies to an insurance pool.
  • appointed Wilmer Byers and Cheryl Beverage to the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals Board.
  • set dates to prepare the county budget.