PRINCETON — Mercer County commissioners still plan to see if any laws were broken when the town of Matoaka failed to conduct audits for seven years prior to its residents’ vote to dissolve the town charter.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the county commission, Commissioner Bill Archer read a revised letter to Charlotte E. Lane, chair of the West Virginia Public Service Commission. In the letter, the commission said that there had been a year-long effort to develop a public entity that could assume operations of the Matoaka Water Treatment Plant.
Acting on a recommendation from Mike Kennett, president of the new Mercer County Public Service District, the county commission agreed to put the Matoaka issue “on a back burner” and urge the new county PSD to concentrate its efforts on providing public water to the greater Camp Creek area, according to the commission’s letter.
The county commission is also requesting the “immediate recovery of Mercer County taxpayer funds that have been used in support of Matoaka during the 22 months since they started the charter dissolution process,” the commissioners said in their letter.
“Since that time, the taxpayers of Mercer County have provided $12,265.00 to the town to help cover equipment repairs, legal assistance, operations of the water and wastewater facilities as well as administrative services of the town. In addition, county taxpayers have covered a total of $2,230.00 on postage for water and sewer bills, office supplies and labor.”
The county commission is also asking Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler to reach out to local, state and federal law enforcement investigators “to determine what, if any, laws have been broken as a result of Matoaka’s failure to conduct an audit for seven years prior to the town’s vote to dissolve its charter,” according to the commission’s letter to the state PSC. “In addition, perhaps Mr. Sitler and is staff can search for any other breaches of municipal responsibility and/or public trust that may have contributed to Matoaka’s present situation.”
In the commission’s original letter to the state PSC date Nov 26, there were questions concerning what had happened to state lottery funds which were sent to the town. Mayor Marsha Howell contacted Archer about the lottery money soon after that Nov. 27 commission meeting. The commission is still waiting for the town’s banking statements.
“Immediately after that or just a matter of hours after that letter was presented here in the commission, I received a call from the mayor of Matoaka,” Archer said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I wasn’t able to deal with her issue until the following morning. I discussed it with her and yes, they had been receiving the money from the three funds in that report because it had been listed all along that they had been receiving them. We asked at that time if we could get an accounting of how that money was being spent and make sure it was being spent appropriately, and she has been unable to get access to the bank account that she told me was set up by somebody in a previous administration. So we’re in a holding pattern as far as that goes.”
Archer said the money that the county has spent is a concern.
“I think that it’s unfair that our county taxpayers have spent about $15,000 in monies to directly assist the Town of Matoaka. I’m for them having great water which they do have and that water came mostly at the expense of federal taxpayers. We had that shared interest in that, but we’re also trying to protect the environment down there with the wastewater treatment plant that is functioning and functioning appropriately and protecting the environment,” he stated. “Those kind of things still have to happen and I’m hoping the letter we’re sending out to the state area officials will expedite that project so we can get our public service district on the ground and moving.”
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com