Commission hires trails council director

PARKERSBURG -Wood County commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to hire Kim Coram as coordinator for the Wood County Alternative Transportation Council.

Coram will be paid $6,000 for a one-year contract to begin Jan. 1. Funds to pay the contract are to be taken from the professional services line item of the county budget.

Coram was not at Thursday’s meeting; commission President Wayne Dunn told his fellow commissioners he would notify Coram of their decision.

“Kim has other pending contracts for work so she needs to know as quickly as possible. I think $500 a month is very reasonable. The plan is the county would run the program eventually. But, for at least the first year, for direction, I think we need someone to oversee it. It’s a conflict for her (Coram), as a council member, if the city of Parkersburg contributes funds for the salary as I understand it,” Dunn said.

Dunn proposed the county pick up the entire tab to hire Coram to coordinate the newly created council earlier.

In mid-July the commission approved legislation creating the council which will coordinate and plan area trail systems. The final appointments are being made now to the 20-member advisory council.

Coram submitted a proposal to the county that she be hired as coordinator.

Under the proposal, the county was to pay Coram $500 monthly to develop and manage the council, define the roles/responsibilities of the county position that would ultimately become responsible for its long-term management; facilitate public awareness of the council’s work to include the update, management and maintenance of the Wood County Trails website previously created for the county and regularly update the commission on progress with specific recommendations for the transition of the job responsibilities to county personnel.

At an earlier meeting, Commissioner Blair Couch suggested the municipalities, which will also be represented on the council, be asked to each contribute $100 a month toward the salary, and that the contract be for a maximum of one year. The commissioners delayed action on Coram’s proposal until they heard back from the cities. County officials said North Hills had offered to contribute some funding to the salary, but they had not heard back from the cities of Vienna or Williamstown.

Dunn raised the issue again earlier this week, saying Coram needed an answer one way or another.

“Based on Wayne’s presentation this is a needful project,” Couch said Thursday, noting he had been contacted by residents who were concerned about the safety of bike trails in the area.

“I think we might need to concentrate on making the community more bike-friendly if we are going to proceed with what you’ve told us,” Couch said.

Couch said he was contacted by a local bike rider who was injured when his bike came in contact with a storm grate in the city.

“He had to be lifeflighted to Charleston; he had serious injuries,” Couch said. “Apparently the way the storm grates are turned created an issue, and after he hit it and the bike stopped, he was thrown into the curb.”

“I was told that it’s all well and good to put in these trails, but we need to become a more bike-friendly county apparently,” Couch noted.

Dunn said it is hoped the council can hold its first meeting prior to Jan. 1.

The 20-member advisory trails council is to consist of representatives from the cities of Parkersburg, Vienna, Williamstown and North Hills; West Virginia University at Parkersburg; Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council; DOT; West Virginia State Parks as well as representatives of trail users, business, private landowners, Wood County Parks, and the historical community. The volunteer advisory board members will serve two-year terms. Appointees may be reappointed for no more than four consecutive terms. The board will be permitted to seek reimbursement for expenses incurred.