By Dianne Weaver

The Calhoun Commission met in a three-and-one-half hour session Monday covering a number of concerns in addition to regular business.

Bob Weaver was elected president for 2008.

- Dick Wittberg, PhD, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, which covers Calhoun, appeared to answer commission concerns regarding diminished services. County's designated services budgeted at about $80,000 (plus $20,000 administration costs) from a $3.2 million budget for six counties.(Additional article to follow)

- Discussion regarding process of seeking a replacement for Prosecuting Attorney Matt Minney, deadline for applications is January 24th. Commission will review applications and conduct interviews on January 25th to appoint an interim Prosecuting Attorney who will serve through 2008.

- Set six dates in February for the commission serving as a Board of Equalization and Review.

- County Clerk Richard Kirby addressed the commission about county properties being under-assessed, creating a significant problem for the county in generating money for basic services and grant matching. In a letter, Kirby said "The policy of keeping assessments low to 'help' the citizens of Calhoun is only cheating them out of services that should be provided. Kirby presented a chart showing the high prices in which property is being sold, compared to their assessed value. (Additional article to follow)

- Commissioner Weaver is working on meeting with elected officials in an effort to equalize or improve some county employees salaries, including providing a competitive, living wage for deputy sheriffs.

- Diane Ludwig of the Little Kanawha Area Development Corporation told the commission progress is being made regarding the transfer of the industrial park land near Grantsville to her agency, saying her group will actively pursue the use of the land for business purposes. The park has been owned by a private non-profit group since its creation.

- The commission will be appointing ballot commissioners.

- The commission has been advised that PEIA health insurance will increase 10% for all employees on July 1.

- Commissioner Weaver said the handbook committee of elected officials and two county employees completed the County Employee Handbook and approved it in December, saying it is now in effect.

- Weaver, who is on the 911 Advisory Board, reported director Gary Buchanan was attending a meeting, unable to be present, Weaver said the Advisory Board would be doing an evaluation on Buchanan this week, and heard a report on progress and plans for the completion of addressing and mapping.

- Judy Powell, representing the Calhoun Wood Festival, inquired about using the Industrial Park for festival activities, including the annual mud bog, in view of the ownership changes, .

- The Calhoun Park Board is planning on filing a grant for money toward the completion of camp sites.

- Barb Lay, speaking for the LEPC, expressed concerns to the commission regarding the need for an active and participating Office of Emergency Service Director for Calhoun. Lay expressed concerns about the county losing Homeland Security funds and other grants, in addition to failing to meet state code requirements, indicating the county has liability problems with a non-participating OES The commission has indicated they will likely replace OES Director Bill Stemple to resolve the problem.

- The commission is considering the creation of an Administrative Assistant who would likely be under the supervision of the County Clerk, and could use that person as "a roving employee" to assist other offices when work loads increase.

County Clerk Richard Kirby has told the commission that work loads for his office, and most county offices, continue to increase, saying "Even working extra hours every week, we are still behind."

Commissioners will decide about the position for possible start-up on July 1. If a decision is made, the job will be advertised.

- The county is actively seeking a volunteer to be on the Building Commission.

- Jim Sullivan has been appointed to serve (volunteer) on the Little Kanawha Parkway Board and the LKADC board.

- Commission members were appointed to local and regional boards.

- A contract is being sought to replace the crumbling courthouse steps in front of the building.

- Tim Meeks appeared before the commission for approval of a number of documents that move forward the Sand Ridge-West Fork water project.

- Diane Ludwig is working on a Courthouse Security Grant, which will increase security and lighting around the building.

- Commissioner Sampson advised the commission regarding funding for the Upper West Fork Park walking trail.

- Commissioner Helmick reported that CRI has a new executive director in Parkersburg, the agency is working on restructuring debt. The CRI office has moved from the large building in south Grantsville to an office in the J&B building.

- No word on progress from the state regarding a grant for the preservation of records in the Circuit Clerk's office.

- No report on the Alternative Sentencing Program, although Prosecuting Attorney Matt Minney recommend that the commission not accept the proposed, based on grounds that the proposal generally brings few new elements to addressing the issue, in addition to problems Minney says he has with the contract.

- The commission paid bills, approved bonds, wills, settlements and orders.

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