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Councilwoman: Resigning wasn't easy
East Huntington representative Tina Brooks says 'my life just took a different direction'

HUNTINGTON — Tina Brooks said she decided to resign from her seat on Huntington City Council following months of soul-searching.

The decision to resign was not easy, she said, but it's one she made on her own. Since the 2016 election, she has represented Council District 9, which makes up part of the Guyandotte, Altizer and Arlington Park neighborhoods. The process now begins to find her replacement.

Before a regular City Council meeting Monday, Chairman Mark Bates read a resignation letter from Brooks that stated she was resigning "due to my life going in a different direction."

When reached by phone Tuesday, Brooks said she did not want to elaborate on what she meant, but said she will have news to announce in the future. She said it's a "wonderful direction" and is looking forward to starting a new chapter of her life.

"My life just took a different direction, and I felt like I could not give 100% to my district," Brooks said. "I feel like any

council member going in should be able to give 100% to their district."

Brooks said the decision to resign was made entirely on her own and was not the result of anyone else's influence. She acknowledged rumors online that she was "bullied" into giving up her seat.

"I'm not one to be easily bullied/' Brooks said. "No one has said anything to me that I couldn't handle. The folks at City Hall have been nothing but great to me."

She stipulated that she is leaving $2,500 in microgrant dollars for the next council member to take over her seat. Council members are allocated $2,500 annually to donate to organizations or projects of their choosing.

"I did not touch it. I wanted to do everything with the utmost, highest integrity," she said. "The reason I went and did the resignation for office is because I did not feel a need to stay and maybe not show up to the meetings and the city have to put out that money. There was no point."

Brooks said she enjoyed her time on City Council and getting to know her colleagues, who gave words of praise Monday night.

"It's really been an honor and a pleasure to serve with Ms. Brooks/' said council member Jennifer Wheeler. "Over the time we've been on council together, I've gotten to know her as a true friend, and I will miss her."

Bates and council members Charles McComas and Carol Polan made similar remarks.

"It was truly, truly a pleasure to work with them. We didn't have any problems on council, and everyone worked together," Brooks said. "We are very blessed to have a mayor that we have who cares so much for our city and is trying to move it forward."

Brooks' resignation has left a vacancy in District 9, which begins a process to find a replacement by city statute.

The City Clerk's Office at City Hall is accepting applications until Aug. 26. Applications should include the person's name, address, phone number, education, work experience and civic involvement. The application must be signed before City Clerk Barbara Miller, Assistant City Clerk Lisa Adkins or a notary.

Qualified individuals must be a U.S. citizen, a West Virginia resident and a resident of Huntington and District 9. They must remain as residents of the district for the duration of the term. They also may not hold any other public office.

Council members will take two days to review applications before holding a special call meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 28. City Council members will then select the replacement. The District 9 term expires Dec. 31, 2020, meaning the incoming council member will need to win in the 2020 primary and general elections to hold on to the seat.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

Guyandotte has welcoming back-to-school cookout
Cabell County students return to school today

HUNTINGTON — It was called "Meet and Greet Night," but Tuesday night's open house at Guyandotte Elementary School was more than a standard pre-first day orientation.

There were a lot more moving parts beyond students and parents finding their new classrooms and meeting their new teachers for the coming year.

A handful of representatives from outside community resources lined an already packed gym. Free back-to-school haircuts were styled right on the gym floor by SmartStyle Salon in

Huntington. Dress for Success offered clothing assistance for students headed back to class.

It's all particularly meaningful considering Guyandotte Elementary is a Title I school, meaning they receive additional federal aid for serving a disproportionate percentage of impoverished students.

Strengthening that community relationship is important for any school, said Principal Mike Krenzel.

"It's a big deal to create positive relationships from the home to the school," Krenzel said. "And it's really great to see the community come in and support us like this."

Guyandotte is one of five schools in Cabell County that will now have a Communities In Schools (CIS) site coordinator in the building each school day — part of an ongoing pilot project in 11 counties in West Virginia expanding this school year.

CIS trains and places site coordinators at schools in need, five days a week, to connect students with available com-munity resources for whatever they may need — described as a fluid combination of a social worker, counselor and a graduation coach.

Megan Woods, Guyandotte's new site coordinator, already has a slate of plans for the school, chiefly starting a sup-port group for grandparents who are now raising their grandchildren (a common occurrence in communities ravaged by the opioid epidemic) and creating more accountability for student attendance by making home visits and frequent phone calls. Other plans include starting a couponing class for families and a free health fair to provide flu vaccinations for students.

"If they don't have the things that they need at home, they're not going to want to come to school and learn," Woods said.

The biggest draw, however, was the free hot dog dinner grilled up by on-duty officers from the Huntington Police Department — wieners and buns donated by Farley's and Heiner's, respectively.

For Patrolman David Mal-comb, late shifts are typically strange, but grilling bundles of hot dogs was an odd yet welcome change of pace.

For children, seeing officers in that softer capacity can make seeing them in the worst of times more bearable, Chief Hank Dial added.

"Anytime we can have a positive contact with kids — or anybody in the community — it helps when negative things happen," Dial said.

Cabell County's first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Property assessor unveils tax estimator
Online tool lets owners calculate future taxes, see how money's used

HUNTINGTON — Cabell County Assessor Irv Johnson has unveiled a new tool to help homeowners estimate their projected property taxes and learn how those dollars are being spent.

Johnson gave a presentation on the new "tax estimator" during a luncheon Tuesday at the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The new tool, which went live Monday on the county assessor's website, is part of Johnson's larger plan to make his office more open to the public.

Earlier this year, Johnson uploaded the county's tax maps online, which keeps people from having to travel to the courthouse and pay fees to perform title searches.

The new tax tool allows people to enter the assessed value of their homes and the tool calculates what the estimated property taxes would be. It also provides a breakdown of how much of that total goes to levying bodies such as fire protection, public improvement, the health department and senior services, among others.

"It will estimate your taxes for you and allow you to do what-ifs," Johnson said. " 'What if I had a homestead (exemption), or, 'What if I moved from out in the county into one of the cities — because all of those are different."

Tuesday's presentation included Realtors, bank representatives and paralegals who perform title work. Johnson said his office frequently gets questions about estimated property taxes and the new tool seems like a "no-brainer."

Questions mainly focus on property taxes, but Johnson said property taxes are set by legislators. County assessors only appraise the value of someone's home based on market studies and other factors, which determine the amount of property taxes they will pay. Assessors are willing to reappraise a home if people feel it's appraised too highly, he said.

Bill Bissett, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the new tool is also useful for the business community to determine what property taxes might be before moving to the area.

"A lot of people look at government as a mysterious thing, and anytime we can demystify it and help people understand the programs that are available and how they can help the business community, that's good for our membership at the chamber," Bissett said.

To access the new property tax estimator, visit Cabell and click on the "tax estimator" tab.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

"It will estimate your taxes for you and allow you to do what-ifs: 'What if' I had a homestead (exemption), or, 'What if' I moved from out in the county into one of the cities — because all of those are different."

Irv Johnson

Cabell County assessor