The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 7, 2013

Raleigh County Commission — Annexation issue draws ‘vendetta’ accusation

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — The newest member of the Raleigh County Commission said Wednesday that she believes a longtime member of the panel has a “vendetta” against her and it came to a head over an annexation issue that was not addressed during Tuesday’s regular session of the commission.

Commissioner Linda Epling, who was elected last November, and her husband Doug have a tract of property located in Maxwell Hill that they are seeking to be annexed by the City of Beckley.

On Dec. 12, 2012, the annexation was unanimously approved by city council.

Bob Cannon, chief code enforcement officer, said annexation is an administrative procedure that has to first pass at a city level, then at the county level.

He said the Eplings property is classified as a “simple boundary adjustment” because it is on the outlying, but contiguous part of the city limits.

Linda Epling told The Register-Herald Wednesday that the property is surrounded on all three sides by land in the city and that they were simply seeking to have it included.

She also said that it was her understanding that she could not “make a motion” for county approval as well as “vote” on the matter “or discuss it at all” because it would be a conflict of interest.

Epling went on to say that Commissioner Pat Reed refused to make a motion to approve the annexation and that it was her understanding that Reed told County Attorney Bill Roop “she had problems with it.”

When asked if she knew why Reed was opposed to the annexation Epling said, “I believe Pat Reed has a vendetta against me and my husband.”

When asked about the annexation issue Reed said she had no comment and refered questions to Roop.

A call to Roop was not returned.

Late Wednesday afternoon The Register-Herald also attempted to reach Reed again for reaction to Epling’s vendetta claim but calls weren’t immediately returned.

The third member of the panel, Commission President Dave Tolliver, said Wednesday “I do not have a problem with the annexation,” but that “The vote was not there.”

When asked if he could have made a motion to approve the annexation he said, “I could have, but it wouldn’t have done any good because there wouldn’t have been a second.

“I would have had to step down as the chair to make a motion and then someone has to second it.”

He then reiterated, “There wouldn’t have been a second.”

Tolliver went on to say that the item will again be placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the commission on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

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Also at the Tuesday session, Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner recommended the hiring of Jeff Harris to fill a security vacancy at the judicial annex.

“I believe he would be an excellent employee,” Tanner said.

The Commission approved the hiring; Tolliver said the Sheriff’s Department’s budget would cover the new employee.

Stephen Deal also appeared before the Commission to give an update on AmeriCorps VISTA.

He said Walmart had provided a $23,000 grant for playground equipment in Rhodell.

Rhodell Mayor, Pat Farruggia, also spoke about the need for a new water system, as the town has recently needed to be on boil water advisories.

Tolliver said the Commission approved a motion to pay for the reworking of the Rhodell water system, which will cost approximately $20,000.

Both Trap Hill and Clear Creek Volunteer Fire Departments asked for approval for the purchase of new fire trucks from the fire levy money. Commission approved both motions.

A $10,000 Trap Hill Little League Grant Contract was approved, as well as a Waste Coal Severance Grant Contract for $10,000 in infrastructure and $135,000 in upgrades to the Sheriff’s parking lot.

Five bids have been received for custodial services for the courthouse, judicial annex, the old magistrate building, Sheriff’s Office, Code Enforcement Office, and County Commission Office. A bid will be awarded at the next session of the County Commission Feb. 19.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com