By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
There was a larger crowd than normal at the January 13, 2021 meeting of the Tucker County Commissioners where newly elected Commission President Michael Rosenau took control of the meeting. Addressing the guests wishing to speak first, Jenny Newland with Downstream Strategies re-presented a proposal to the Commissioners to outline services their group could offer the county.
Lois Arbogast followed up on her last visit in September of 2019 in regards to the EMS Ordinance Fee. Her first question to the Commissioners was if a plan was in place to collect the unpaid fees. She then addressed Rosenau stating, “In some of your political ads in the newspaper, you stated that you would not, you did not agree to something being done that the voters hadn’t voted on, an ordinance or a fee, we all know it’s never going to pass.” She continued by saying that, as mentioned in September, the Commissioners are responsible for providing the citizens an ambulance service, and she told Rosenau that with him now in the office this included him. “No joke, I know that,” responded Rosenu.
Arbogast publicly retracted a statement she made in September where she felt that there was no better EMS service throughout the county since the implementation of the fee. “I didn’t check with the EMS Authority Board and I was informed that we do now have, practically every day, 24/7 at both stations, which is a great improvement and I now realize that is because that ordinance was enacted and implemented,” proclaimed Arbogast. This lead her to stress again those who have not paid the fees need to be enforced along with a late fee assessed for each year not paid to continue supporting the EMS.
She suggested that those who do not agree with the fee or have issues to show up to the meetings and share their concerns or recommendations on how things could be conducted differently. Arbogast then asked Rosenau if he knew he was going to run for office and did not support this ordinance, why he did not attend any of the meetings to express that. “Well Lois let me tell you something,” began Rosenau. “You point me out several times during this meeting, if you have all the answers you should’ve ran for County Commission. And another thing I want to say is, true, I am not going to vote for anything unless it’s on the ballot for a fee, a fee, or a levy,” continued Rosenau. “The people have a right, we live in a democracy, we have a right to vote on things.”
“OK then let me ask you this,” continued Arbogast. “If you undone everything that’s been done, I don’t know how the ambulance is going to run financially,” she said and reminded Rosenau that he and the other commissioners are personally responsible for providing this service. “How did we run the EMS Authority Board all these years? That’s right you don’t know all the facts, you see all the facts that are presented to you and that’s all you see,” responded Rosenau.
Commissioner Fred Davis joined the conversation and told Arbogast she was correct, however, the three commissioners have not yet had a chance to sit down and discuss every topic since a new member was elected in, and this fee will be something they will need to discuss in detail. “I appreciate you standing up, saying what you do for the EMS and stuff,” said Davis.
“When people talk to you about the fee, do you say that it was legitimately done according to regulations and rules and if you owe it you should have paid it or you need to pay it now? Do you encourage them to pay that fee to be fair to us that have?” Arbogast asked. “Well it’s not my place I don’t think to tell you what bills to pay or what bills not to pay in any household,” said Rosenau. Arbogast asked again, “Are you encouraging them to pay it?” “Mr. Moore, Mr. Davis, do you want to address Lois’ question?” asked Rosenau. “I didn’t ask them,” said Arbogast. “Well I’m tired of talking, I’m sorry, I don’t mean that, but I’m just saying I don’t know what else to do,” said Rosenau, and reiterated he is not going to tell people to pay or not pay their bills. “That’s all I needed to know,” finished Arbogast, with Rosenau saying, “That’s good.”
Dave Sharp took his turn to address the Commissioners, informing them that on December 25 an ambulance was called to his house for his wife. He stated when they arrived and came into the house, he took his wife to the restroom before going into the ambulance. According to Sharp, “Sheila came in and said ‘Get up there and get up off this pot we got to get you out of here,’ she didn’t assess her or nothing.” The patient was taken to Elkins when it was requested she be taken to UHC in Clarksburg where her doctor is. Sharp said when she ended up at Davis Memorial; she had bruises all over her which he claimed Davis and Rosenau received pictures of.
When asked why the patient wasn’t taken where requested, Sharp stated he was told it was because of the protocol. He stated protocol and procedures are supposed to be available to the public, so he asked to see them. According to Sharp, no one was able to show him the protocol he requested.
Sharp continued to express concern with the ambulance staff needing to call for loading help when on certain calls. He believes if done correctly, the two EMTs on each unit should be able to do so without calling for assistance. “You shouldn’t have to call for help to load a patient, that’s the way I feel about it,” he said.
Commissioner Lowell Moore stated though he doesn’t work for the EMS, he knows their protocol is to go to the nearest hospital, typically Garrett or Davis Medical. Sharp said to him that the protocol is to take patients to the nearest hospital with things such as heart failure, but in his wife’s case could have been taken where requested. It was suggested that Sharp attend the next Ambulance Authority meeting to express his concerns and ask specific questions they should be able to answer.
Joe Long, Maintenance Director, began the employee reports stating that Advantage Technologies has been on the premises to begin work on the data room, which is already seeing vast improvements. The painters have begun working which is already bringing a positive aesthetics to the facility, though it is a time-consuming project. The house near the Senior Center has been demolished and debris cleanup is taking place to prepare for the future parking area.
Rosenau announced that he recently spoke with Long and the maintenance crew to request they not park in the only, non-assigned parking space on Second Street and leave that available for citizen use that is not handicap designated. He agreed it would be ok to park there temporarily for loading and unloading, but asked afterward to park within the lot across from City Hall. Rosenau noted that the two entrances to the elevators are from the Second Street side and further justified his request.
Moore requested to comment on that topic, saying, “Our maintenance has used that down there, and they need a place when they go to Adkins to bring in materials when they go to Kidwells, and I watch them, they leave out of there multiple times a day.” He continued, “I feel that that spot needs to be designated just for the maintenance people.” Moore shared that the parking is permitted by the Department of Highways owning curb to curb on main routes and the City of Parsons own curb to curb on the city streets. Some businesses have chosen to pay $10 per spot per month to have a designated spot near their place of business. “As long as I’m a County Commissioner, I’ll pay for a parking spot for the maintenance people out there, $10 a month, $120 a year, “I’ll pay that out of my pocket,” Moore added. He reiterated that legally isn’t their place, that spot is mandated by city officials.
“I agree that there is a parking problem Mike, but they can park out here, they can park in the garage, the only thing I’m asking in respect of our maintenance people, I want them to not have to sit out there in the middle of the road to unload stuff, have to hunt a place to park, they are too valuable to walk back and forth from that lot every day, I’m asking for that one spot,” Moore said. “Well with me, I didn’t mean to tell them to do that, I asked them to do that for convenience for the public, the taxpayers, and I don’t want it to be an issue, Lowell,” responded Rosenau, “But I’m just saying, to me, we don’t want to lose sight of what our responsibility is to the taxpayers of this county.”
Rosenau referred to him changing the monthly meeting typically held at 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate those wishing to attend who don’t get off work on time. Relative to that, he feels their primary goal is to take care of the taxpayers of Tucker County which includes providing that parking space for their use. “I’m still going to ask for that one spot for our maintenance people,” said Moore. “That’s all we have out there,” responded Rosenau. With this topic not on the official agenda, it will have to be decided upon at their next meeting.
County Planner Sheila DeVilder is continuing to work on and is nearing completion of the necessary paperwork for the CARES Act and Block Grants. The contract for the CFIA Grant for the Jailhouse Restoration Project has been received and signed, and she has reached out to ZMM, the contracting company, to begin the project potentially in Spring or early Summer.
Beverly Cantrell, 911 Director, reported that seven employees have been administered their first COVID vaccination. She offered a 2020 call log report stating there were 4,578 computer-aided dispatches, 1,838 requests for law enforcement, and 1,173 EMS calls for service. Company 10 Volunteer Fire Department received 254 calls; Company 20 had 98, Company 30 with 135, and 120 for Company 40 VFD.
Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin White stated they have been assisting the Tucker County Health Department with the COVID testing and vaccination sites throughout the county. Stakeholders are continued to be supported with PPE equipment as needed. The radios purchased for the Leadmine CERT have been properly programmed and assigned to the trained professionals.
The proper license has been purchased and the OEM office can now be utilized as a backup location for the 911 Center if needed. A Memorandum of Understanding, in conjunction with 911, was signed with Randolph County to use the same radio frequencies to allow for direct communication between the two entities. White finished with reporting that the stream mitigation cleanup efforts are moving along well.
Moore read a report from Animal Shelter Director Bailey Falls who was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances at the shelter. December continued to show an increase in spay, neuter, and adoptions. Falls is applying for a grant specifically for cats through W.Va. Spay and Neuter and another grant through the Stanton Foundation. Rosenau stated he visited the shelter recently and commended Falls and her staff for their hard work.
It was requested to rescind Susie Carr to serve a three-year term on the Tucker County Animal Shelter board, which was carried with a motion by Moore and all in favor. It was then motioned by Davis to approve Roberta “Donna” Helmick to serve on that board for three years, which was agreed upon unanimously.
A road name request was submitted by Holly Rogers seeking approval to name a road Owens Camp Lane. Davis made a motion to approve and all agreed.
County Clerk Sherry Simmons requested a copy of a will of Richard W. Parsons to be approved for probate. Prosecuting Attorney Savannah Hull Wilkins reviewed the documentation and recommended that the copy be used with approval from the Commission. Moore made a motion to approve the copy of the will with Rosenau and Davis in favor.
Once the payments were reviewed, Rosenau questioned why the Certified Public Accountant line item charge increased. He had asked Sheriff J.E. Kopec to attend the meeting to explain. “There’s been a change as far as CPA, there are different people in the company now,” Sheriff Kopec began explaining he is going through everything and being extremely thorough. With that being said, the payments were approved as presented along with the bank account signatures.
Moore began the Commissioners Reports by sending his condolences to the family of Jerry DiBacco.
Davis has been approached with concerned citizens regarding the leash law in Tucker County. After contacting the Animal Shelter and speaking with some board members, he acknowledged there is a leash law and it needs to be followed. Davis has also been asked how individuals become members of the various boards, which he suggested interested parties reach out to one of the Commissioners, Simmons, or DeVilder to have a record showing their interest. His desire would be a representative from each board attends one meeting per month to provide an overview of their work in progress. He concluded by stating Timberline and Canaan Valley were both doing well this ski season thus far.
Rosenau began his report by asking DeVilder to reach out to surrounding counties to determine how they fund and operate their EMS, saying, “I want to see how they do it.” He is still working to become familiar with the commission projects as it is only his second week in office.
This concluded the business for Tucker County Commission which will meet again on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, at 6 p.m. held in the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.