The regular meeting of the Rainelle Town Council on December 13 was unable to be live streamed on Facebook due to internet service issues, according to Councilmember Ron Fleshman, but town officials may have found a fix to their internet troubles.
Fleshman, who spoke to The West Virginia Daily News on Tuesday, Dec. 14, said that council voted to switch internet service providers. This switch should provide faster internet speeds so meetings may be consistently streamed and available to the public via Facebook.
The in-person meetings at town hall are currently closed to the public due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Fleshman explained. At this time, a date for their reopening has not been set.
The town is also preparing to launch a website to keep citizens informed, Fleshman added. That website should be up and running soon.
A public video of the meeting was posted to Facebook by town officials on Wednesday, December 15. Everyone should be able to view the meeting on Facebook at this time.
As for the town’s business, council discussed the Alder Mobile Home Park located along Ohio Avenue.
The former owner of the park, Todd Rawlings, appeared before council back in September stating that he had plans to sell the park and that working with local law enforcement was “a challenge” because they had not been responding to 911 calls regarding complaints of drug use at the park, or residents allegedly waving guns around.
Rawlings told council that he was unaware of the conditions at the park, but that he would do what he could to take care of the property. In the weeks following that meeting, Rawlings passed away.
According to Mayor Robin Williams, who spoke during the recent town council meeting, mobile home park maintenance has fallen upon Rawlings’ wife, who has stated that she is selling the park.
Williams explained that she and other councilmembers have been in contact with the soon-to-be owners of the park, who will take control at the end of December. She said that the potential owners expressed their willingness to work with the town on park maintenance and want to address resident issues.
“We voiced our concerns about what has happened there and what’s happening there now,” Williams said.
“They understood us and the concerns we have about the residents there,” she continued. “I am to give them information on the lots and who’s living there. Apparently, they don’t have a list of that.”
Councilmember Rick McCall asked if there was an ordinance in place that governs mobile home parks.
“Now is a prime time to get out of this grandfather clause with these people and just put the hammer down,” McCall said. He noted that something needs to be in place before the new owners take over to make sure that a change happens.
Williams responded that there are ordinances that pertain to upkeep, gas tanks and noise. She said that no one was supposed to be moving into the park while the sale was under contract, but people are moving in.
At this point, Police Chief JP Stevens interjected.
“I’ve been fighting this thing for the past seven years,” he stated. He added that he feels the council is “running into liability factors” and should put a cease and desist order against the park and its current owner. He explained that his concerns center around the fact that town officials are meeting with future owners of the park; however, the park is currently owned by someone else who continues to allow new tenants to move in.
“You’re putting the town in jeopardy by letting these people move down here,” Stevens said, noting that others are fearful of the situation. He told council they should contact the town attorney regarding the matter.
Stevens continued that he would like to be kept apprised of situations like this and others happening in town because officers should not be “put in the middle.”
“Now, I am put in the middle of this, trying to help these new owners get this property, telling this old owner we are going to do this for them, putting my police department in jeopardy and, if we ever have to take legal action against them, well, guess what happens? That’s a conflict of interests. Who’s gonna pay for that? You guys. You guys are gonna get sued and I’m gonna get sued if they take legal action against us,” Stevens stated.
Council member Jimmy Matheney interjected that council should go into an executive session to discuss legal matters, but the council did not go into executive session.
Stevens continued that if council decides to take action against the current owner, that he would do whatever he was asked to do, but that he would abide by West Virginia State Code.
He told council that the current owner would be meeting with him on Monday due to ongoing drug activity and various complaints received from residents. Council said they, while she is in town, they should meet with her and an attorney to discuss the matter and the possibility of issuing a cease and desist order.
In other town business,
– Recorder Eddie Midkiff suggested placing a fence around the town garage to protect vehicles that are parked there;
– Council heard a complaint from town resident Richard Fleshman, who wants the town to pay for a busted tire that was damaged back in 2013 on Ohio Avenue. The state has provided him with $50, but he still had to pay $504 out of pocket. He asked a previous administration for financial assistance to fix his vehicle, but his complaint did not move forward. Therefore, he said he brought the matter to the current administration.
After discussion over whether the road is maintained by the town or the state, council decided to contact legal counsel before proceeding with a payment;
– Council approved the purchase of a $2,955 digital scale controller with keypad for the water department due to deterioration of the current one. The controller will help water department employees safely add chlorine to the water;
– Representatives from the EL Robinson Engineering firm spoke before council about the water storage tank upgrade project at Lilly Park. The project, which includes painting two tanks in town, the upgrade and building connectivity infrastructure, is moving along, said Civil Engineer Kenneth Kinder. The project should get going in Spring 2022.