By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - The Mingo County Commission held its second meeting for the month of February at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. All three commissioners were present and addressed a lengthy agenda.
Members of the cast of the Matewan Massacre Drama were on hand to request funding for their 2014 performances, and were also honored by the commission for an award they recently received for their continued dedication and outstanding performance, and for their continued drive to share such an important part of the local mine wars history. Donna Patterino, director of the re-enactment, presented the commissioners with a commemorative T-shirt marking this year’s production, as well as a replica of the trophy she had been presented in 2013 at the Tamarack Arts Center in Beckley.
Several Ragland residents who participate in the Crime Watch program in their community were in attendance to swap the title for the 1998 Dodge Dakota truck the county commission had provided them with in the past for a 2004 Crown Victoria, courtesy of the commission and the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department. Program President Richard “Dickie” Belcher told the commission they greatly appreciated the donation of the vehicle and volunteered to assist other neighborhoods with developing their own Crime Watch groups, should they be interested.
A representative of the Kermit Buddy Basketball League approached the commission concerning the need for a donation to assist with the purchase of uniforms and equipment needed for the children who participate, and was granted a $1,500 donation.
Virginia Lewis and Gary Stepp of the Mingo County Airport Authority were on hand to bring an agreement for the commission’s signature, stating that, until such time as the new Mingo County Airport located at Varney is fully operational, the current airport in Williamson will remain in use.
Mark Whitt, director of the Mingo County 4-H and of the summertime Energy Express program, spoke about the possible closure of one of the six sites used by the summer program that benefits area children, explaining that funding had decreased and that, as of now, it appeared the county would have five locations for the summer of 2014. Whitt spoke of the great importance of the program, which supplies meals to children who attend, and said that for some this is the only meals they receive. The commissioners want to investigate more thoroughly and plan to meet with Whitt later this week concerning the matter.
Bill Chafin, owner of the property that houses the former Chafin Grade School at Ragland, spoke to the commission about a discussion that had taken place during the last meeting, when he was not present, about his property. The landowner agreed to give the county 90 days access to the dilapidated property to have an expert assess the cost for removal of asbestos from the crumbling building and to see if demolition was a possibility.
“An Unsafe and Unsanitary Building Ordinance” enforcement agency was established to oversee the need to rid the county of blighted properties and dilapidated buildings, with the following men being named to serve on that committee: Mingo County Sheriff James Smith, Litter Enforcement Officer Larry “Yogi” Croaff, East Fork Fire Chief John Hall Jr., Bob Preece, Carl “Cab” Wolford and Mingo County Sanitarian Brett Vance.