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Commission passes budget with no public input

By Staff | Mar 27, 2020

CHARLES TOWN – The Jefferson County Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting on March 19; however, no members of the public were present. As a precaution against the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, the commission held its meeting via live-feed only.

Commissioners Josh Compton, Caleb Hudson and Patsy Noland attended the meeting via telephone conferencing, while Jane Tabb and Ralph Lorenzetti were there in-person.

The shortened meeting had only a few agenda items, most without personal representation, although Prosecutor Matt Harvey was present to seek approval of a staffer and Liz Wheeler, director of the Farmland Protection Board, also appeared, to seek approval for a conservation easement approval.

With little fanfare or discussion, the five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the FY21 budget in the amount of $25,880,777.

After extensive discussion and debate during the budget process, the county voted in the budget’s final form, to approve four new Emergency Medical Technicians. The Emergency Services Agency had requested a total of 27 new positions. Funding for the county’s seven volunteer fire companies remained at the level awarded last year, which is what the departments requested for the upcoming year.

Also receiving the same funding as in the last fiscal year, were the county’s libraries, with each of the three public libraries and Charles Town Library, a private library, receiving $82,500.

Funds for the Jefferson County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Jefferson County Parks and Recreation received a slight increase; however, that increase will rely on the hotel/motel taxes that come into the county and is based on an expected percentage of revenue from those taxes. Those numbers could drop, however, in light of the recent COVID-19 restrictions.

“The budget could be vastly different in a few months,” Compton said, as he voted his approval.

With the closure of Hollywood Casino, Compton said on Tuesday that there could be major issues if the casino is closed for too long.

During commission reports, County Administrator Stephanie Grove spoke to the commissioners about the potential idea of changing the primary election for West Virginia.

“Most of our poll workers are in the high-risk category, and with the closure of school buildings, we no longer have polling places,” Grove said.

While the county cannot vote the change, the group did unanimously approve a motion to send a recommendation to the Secretary of State and other legislative entities to suggest that a delay is prudent.

“If we can get the governor or the legislature to delay it, that’s probably the best thing to do,” Noland said.

The JCC voted to send their recommendation, not only to the Secretary of State and legislators, but also to anyone who could potentially have a voice in the determination of a postponement.