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Hancock County parks seek wildlife habitat designation

PLAN OUTLINED — The Hancock County Commission met Thursday, hearing of plans by the county’s parks board to apply for the establishment of certified wildlife habitats in the county through the National Wildlife Federation. (Photo by Craig Howell)

NEW CUMBERLAND — The county’s parks board is planning for a busy year, with a variety of events and efforts to establish certified wildlife habitats in the county.

Hancock County commissioners, during their meeting Thursday, heard from Mary Thorn, member of the Hancock County Parks and Recreation Board, to present some of the plans.

“We have a lot on our plate,” Thorn explained.

Among the projects currently discussed by the board would be applying for the county’s parks to be certified as wildlife habitats through the National Wildlife Federation.

“No other communities in West Virginia have become certified,” she said.

Enrolling in the program would come with a cost of $180, Thorn said, noting there is a $100 start-up fee, with a $20 fee for each park.

The program would include establishing gardens of native plants, as well as feeders and shelters to attract and protect local wildlife.

Thorn explained there would be a need for volunteers to assist the program once it is established.

She also announced there are plans for the return of open-air markets to the county.

“We did one in September and in October, and it seemed successful,” Thorn said, explaining plans are to have the first one April 11, with a rain date of April 18.

Seven other dates are being planned for the open-air markets through the rest of the year, each with their own rain date, she said.

The park board plans to establish a series of community gardens, with the first at the board’s office building, and are looking into a variety of community programs, including an ATV safety program it is organizing with the West Virginia University Extension Service.

To assist with promoting and organizing the events, Thorn requested a new computer for the board, explaining its current computer is unable to access social media or operate much of the currently available software.

Commissioner Jeff Davis suggested the county’s IT Department could find one, while Commissioner Eron Chek noted she had been offered a laptop when she took office and asked if it could be made available to the board instead.

“I won’t be needing it,” Chek said.

In other business, the commission approved:

¯ An amendment to the bylaws of the county park board allowing a quorum of four members, instead of five. Mike Lucas, assistant county prosecutor, explained the makeup of the board had gone from nine to seven members.

¯ The 2021 standard mileage rate for the county of 56 cents per mile for business use

¯ The 2021 personnel and committee appointments

¯ An application for a 2021 state Department of Agriculture Spay/Neuter Grant, in the amount of $10,000

¯ The authorization of the state Tax Department to make changes to oil and gas property accounts of the county

¯ Internal budget revisions for the current fiscal year, which Finance Administrator Karen LaScola explained were primarily related to changes in employee insurance plans.

¯ The hiring of Love Reese Wood as a part-time 4-H program assistant, effective Jan. 16.

¯ The appointment of Brian Peters as chief of the Hancock County Sheriffs Reserves, effective Jan. 4.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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