Powhatan Point seniors talk building needs

Pattie Meyer and members of the Powhatan Point Seniors Association speak to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, asking the commissioners to consider helping the group to obtain or construct a new senior center in the village, since the current one remains in danger of flooding. T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A building the Powhatan Point Seniors Association had hoped to use as a new senior center location away from the risk of flooding is no longer available, but the members are still seeking financial assistance toward a new location.

Last week, representatives of the senior center visited Belmont County Commissioners J.P. Dutton, Josh Meyer and Mark Thomas to inquire about the possibility of purchasing a building. On Wednesday, they returned to again make their case.

“The building that we were interested in was purchased by somebody else,” Pattie Meyer, a concerned Powhatan Point resident, said. “That doesn’t solve our problem.”

The Powhatan Point Seniors Association owns the current building, but they say it has flooded in the past and everything in the buildings must be moved if there is a flood alert.

Pattie Meyer said the current plan is to construct a new center. She added that XTO Energy has donated to the project but she declined to disclose the amount. She asked if the county might help fund such a construction endeavor.

“What we are trying to do now is purchase a piece of property. It’s very limited in Powhatan, though,” she said. “We have to get out of the flood area. … Because of the hurricanes or whatever, we have the threat of flooding quite often now. They have to stop. We have to do something so we don’t have to keep moving the whole center every time, because we’re right there on (Captina) Creek. If there’s a threat, we have to move.”

Pattie Meyer is Josh Meyer’s stepmother, but the commissioner said afterward that this relationship does not impact his impartiality and that he does not feel the need to recuse himself from any decisions on the matter.

The seniors originally had asked for more than $100,000 for the purchase of an existing building. After Wednesday’s meeting, Pattie Meyer said the group could not build in the flood zone without facing the same problems in the future.

“There are very limited lots,” she said, estimating a possible total cost for property acquisition and construction of $250,000. She added that the senior association was grateful to XTO.

“We’re hoping that maybe even donations (will come) from the local citizens, any organizations,” she said. “We’re hoping we get some help.”

Pattie Meyer also told the commissioners that the county’s senior budget is more than $4 million.

“We’ll definitely look into it,” Dutton said, adding that the county budget for next year has not yet been finalized.

Melda Gallaher, president of the Powhatan Point Seniors Association, said the heavy traffic between the current center and its parking lot also poses a hazard.

“It’s a big issue. I can’t see where you can’t help us,” she said.

“I saw that issue firsthand. I do see where there is a decent amount of traffic,” Dutton responded.

Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi inquired about the county’s expenditures on senior services and why the building the Powhatan seniors had hoped to obtain was not purchased at an earlier time. He also said such centers serve a central role for a community’s seniors.

Dutton said the possibility of buying the building had been discussed prior to last week, but he added that the board had concerns about the possibility of setting a precedent for other senior centers.

“We are in a difficult situation where we stand with our current senior centers. We have various different agreements on these senior centers. Some are owned by associations, which is the case in Powhatan. Some are under rental agreements that the county pays for,” Dutton said, adding that two centers are in county-owned structures. “There’s no standardization.”

Josh Meyer added that more than half of the $4 million is allocated for such projects as a fleet management plan for the county’s central senior center, including the replacement of many worn-out vehicles. He said the commissioners also intend to pay off the costs for the new senior services department office and community building. The new facility along U.S. 40 west of St. Clairsville opened its doors in October 2017.

“Our goal is to pay that building off next year,” Dutton said. “We’re pretty excited about paying that debt down that quickly and getting that out of our county debt portfolio. We have to be very mindful.”

“It seems to me like everything goes toward St. Clairsville,” Gallaher said.

“We look at all of Belmont County,” Josh Meyer replied.

Dutton also said the fleet needs to be maintained so that the county does not see multiple breakdowns all at once in the future.

Belmont County Senior Services Director Gary Armitage was contacted after the meeting but declined to comment.