HAMLIN — The Lincoln County Commission received multiple project updates from Emergency Services Director Allen Holder Thursday during its regular meeting.
One project Holder provided updates on is the clean-up of properties impacted by the 2016 flooding in Lincoln County.
“Pretty much everything that we have, our current purchase, has been torn down and taken care of,” Holder said. “However, I did put the temporary stop on one today. We have one down in the Harts Creek area and we noticed a slip in the piece of property, that’s one reason that it was bought, but I am concerned that if we take down the structure there on the bend of the river that it will affect the county road that’s up above it.”
Holder said he is working to adhere to federal guidance while still maintaining the integrity of the infrastructure surrounding the property in Harts to ensure the road does not slip.
Holder said his office applied for the FEMA funds in 2017 or 2018 to work on cleaning up areas impacted by the flooding. He said they split different communities in the county up into seven different proposed projects, never imagining the county would receive funding for all seven. The award is estimated to have been approximately $4.5 million that is paid out as pieces of each project are signed off on.
Holder said his office will also work on applying for FEMA assistance from the recent ice storm that impacted most of southern West Virginia.
During a more contentious part of the meeting, Holder was questioned by Commissioner Phoebe Harless and Commission CAO Mary Napier about expenditures for a recent cellphone tower project.
“I just have concerns that we were running over on this tower so much,” Harless said.
According to Napier and Harless, the new tower in the Midkiff area went approximately $60,000 over budget. However, Holder said he would not have completed the project if he didn’t know that funds were readily available to cover the extra costs. Holder also claimed none of the cellphone tower projects in the county have ever come in under budget.
“Go back and look, we’ve built five towers in the county,” Holder said. “There’s not a single tower you’ve ever built that’s not over a little bit, and here’s why… No contractor will ever give you a concrete solid bid to do something like that when they haven’t turned the soil.”
Holder cited Harts and Yawkey as examples of projects where changes were made and work spread out over time because of budget issues due to changes after the initial approval of the projects.
Holder said the Midkiff project ran into unexpected issues when determining the right of way for the construction site. He said close to $10,000 was spent in attorney fees alone to look at whether or not the county did in fact have the right of way, and it was determined they should purchase the rights to ensure no issues moving forward.
“We lost a few thousand dollars making sure that the right of way was clean, because AT&T was not going to put anything on that tower site unless that right of way was 100 percent clean,” Holder said.
Harless said she would be more comfortable if the Commission is informed ahead of time when related-issues arise on future projects.