Sometimes routine agenda items at Putnam County Commission meetings prove to be not so routine. Such was the case at the May 27 County Commission meeting during and after the conduct of a public hearing requested by PAR Industrial Company. PAR requested the hearing after being notified in April that failure to repair a dilapidated fence located on Scary Creek Road could result in fines.
During the hearing, PAR attorney Tim Lafon argued that Putnam’s Dilapidated and Abandoned Property ordinance should not apply because there was no reason to believe that the property was intended for human habitation and the property lacked any structure.
Tina Peck of the DAEA Board countered that the fence was a structure and that it was dilapidated. Lafon then asked if the property would be considered a stretch of woods in the absence of the fence. Peck replied that removal of the fence would bring PAR into compliance with the ordinance.
Commissioner Ron Foster responded to the suggestion that the property was just woods. Foster stated that PAR’s deed to the Scary Creek property made reference to its having been used by FMC chemical company as a dump site. Lafon objected to Foster’s conclusion because 10 parcels of land were described in the deed and the bulk of the acreage was not in the vicinity of the area addressed in the complaint.
Foster then replied that people do not build fences for the sake of building fences and that the presence of a fence is cause to believe that people are not wanted on the property. Foster stated that there had to a reason that PAR paid $2 million for less than 100 acres of property in 1982 but the issue before the commission was the fence, not the land’s past usage.
Commissioner Andy Skidmore asked Lafon what action that the company planned take. Lafon replied that action by PAR would be dependent upon what the commission should order, that it was PAR’s position is that there is no habitable structure on the property and the ordinance does not apply.
Foster stated that the code allows the county to address unsafe conditions and that the fence is an unnecessary hazard. The hearing concluded with the commission ordering PAR to correct the conditions cited in the DAEA complaint.
Immediately following the vote, however, a Scary Creek resident asked to address the commission concerning the fence and other issues on the property. The resident informed the commissioners that the site had a long history of unpleasant odors and that he had seen a white substance seeping from the ground. The resident also reported that trash had been illegally dumped in areas where the fence had failed and that the area was known for drug activity. The resident stated that on one occasion, the fallen fence had to be removed from Scary Creek Road by the DOH.
Commissioner Foster asked County Attorney Larry Frye if any steps had been taken to determine if the area was an environmental hazard. Frye responded that he had requested a list of hazardous waste sites in the county from the DNR.
After assuring the resident that his concerns were in the process of being addressed, the commission returned to regular business.
Other business included approving a request to provide $35,000 additional funding to the WVU Extension Office. The commission had budgeted $25,000 to the Extension Office for the coming fiscal year. Commissioner Foster voted in opposition to the increase, stating opposition to initiatives by WVU President Gee to promote the expansion of curricula content teaching anti-racism, white privilege and supremacy, equality and justice. Foster believes that such curriculum does not benefit Putnam County 4-H.
The commission honored Winfield Middle School student Sophie McGovern with a proclamation citing her 3rd place finish in the state essay contest sponsored by the WV County Commissioners association.