Conservation district wants help from Philippi council

Two representatives of the Tygart Valley Conservation District told Philippi City Council Tuesday they think the city should push harder for the completion of a 3-year-old dam project.

Both Robert Wolfe and Sam Wright said their requests for much-needed funding for the Little Laurel River Dam have fallen on deaf ears with state officials, who allegedly have said they do not see the city as being on board with the project that started in 2010.

Wolfe said he was told not to inquire about funding until the various state officials see “more of a response out of the city of Philippi.”

Councilman Ed Larry, Mayor Jerry Mouser and multiple other councilmen repeatedly said the council supports the project. Larry said he has written letters requesting funding from the state of West Virginia, Congressman David McKinley, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin, but the letters have received no response. Wolfe said that the state representatives say they have not received letters.

Mouser and other council representatives said they were asked to raise more than $2 million to help fund the project. City Manager Karen Weaver said the city could not provide the $2 million at the time because of a $14 million water treatment plant project that was ongoing.

Larry said he sends the letters requesting funding every six to eight months. He said he would give Wright and Wolfe copies of those letters.

Weaver and other council representatives said they do not understand why state officials believe the city is not interested.

“Our citizens only have so much money,” Mouser said. “We can’t go back to people constantly and get in their pocketbook.”

The TVCD representatives said they fear they could lose about $2 million.

“What’s more important than water?” Wright said, adding that it’s one of the county’s issues. “Water is the most important thing that we have.”

“It’s not as if it’s going to be a problem over here; it’s when,” Wolfe said. “It’s going to happen. You think this water is going to get contaminated? Yes. It’s just a matter of when.”

Councilman Terrence Boyd suggested that there might be a misunderstanding between those involved. He suggested having a meeting to discuss what more can be done.

“It’s a project I don’t think anyone disagrees with,” Boyd said. “It’s a great project.”

Wright and Wolfe said there was a privately scheduled meeting in Elkins for the first Friday in October. He said the city should have a representative there.

“We would like to see the city take over,” Wright said. “I just want them to understand that we need it done.”

In other council business, three ordinances were OK’d on their second and final readings. Council members approved an ordinance that will prohibit the use of bath salts and other such synthetic substances within city limits. They also adopted a new law in the state code through two different ordinances regarding the use of seat belts and texting while driving.

While the two ordinances could allow the city to retain a larger part of the fees incurred through the enforcement of the codes, Mouser said that is not the purpose. Regardless of the city’s adoption of the code, the new laws are expected to be enforced by all law enforcement.

“The purpose of these laws is not to generate revenue,” Mouser said.

Council members also approved a $1,500 request from the local Economic Development Office to fulfill its required match in grant funding it has received. Council also approved the placement of a sign at the Blue and Gray Park by the Division of Forestry which would warn the public of the potential threats for a forest fire, meaning that citizens would know when they could or shouldn’t burn something.