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Commission sets public hearing on inactive estates

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Article by: Ben Conley, The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission will look to clear more than 200 inactive estates off the county clerk’s records following a public hearing at its Oct. 2 regular meeting.

The hearing is part of a process passed during the most recent legislative session through which the county can close out estates that remain completely inactive for at least three years.

Monongalia County Clerk Carye Blaney said her office has “thousands” of estates that meet such criteria. She said this first batch only goes back to 2015.

“We’re just going back in short segments because we have so many it’s overwhelming,” Blaney said, explaining that a second round of letters will be sent out and a notice will be published in this newspaper prior to the Oct. 2 hearing.

“If anyone appears at the hearing at the commission meeting on Oct. 2, then the commission can pull those estates off the closed list,” she said. “Anyone who does not appear, then that estate will be closed.”

According to Blaney, this new law has basically taken over two-full time staff positions in her office.

“It’s 100% more work,” she said. “It’s another unfunded mandate put on local government by the state.”

In other county news, the commission approved a pair of letters to the West Virginia Auditor’s Office justifying the amount of general fund and coal severance carryover the county brought into the current fiscal year.

According the County Administrator Rennetta McClure, any time carryover exceeds 25% of the total budget, the auditor requests justification.

In Monongalia County’s case, the county has a budget of $35,782,622 and carried over $9,317,356 — about 40% of which falls under contracted services ($2,079,851.50) and capital outlays ($1,822,164.35).

“There was an additional 38.05% for Personal Services, Commodities, Transfers, and Contingencies that was the result of careful and conservative budgeting across all of the elected official’s offices in Monongalia County,” the letter states, noting the county also realized about $1.7 million in revenue above estimates.

As for coal severance, the county carried over $198,592. The total coal severance budget is $254,100.

Also on Wednesday, the commission received an update from Susan Riddle of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Riddle said the CVB continues to see positive trends in terms of hotel occupancy, demand and lodging revenue.

“Going into 2020, we will be working on a rebranding campaign, which we’ll be rebranding ourselves as “Visit Mountaineer Country,” because we will be representing not just Monongalia and Preston counties, but Taylor County is also coming into our service area per their request — Taylor County and the city of Grafton,” Riddle said.

Lastly, Commissioner Ed Hawkins said the Monongalia County Fair saw record attendance this year with more than 4,000 people attending on the final day and more than 10,000 for the week.