By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Terry Silk, Director of the Tucker County Ambulance Authority, was at the Tucker County Commission meeting to present six months’ worth of financials to the Commissioners. He began by reciting the mission statement of the EMS as they aim to provide emergency medical and transportation services in a professional matter. This has not stopped amidst the pandemic, though it has caused challenges that have needed to be overcome. There has been 24/7 staffing at both stations for the past year, which Silk stated, “Without the EMS ordinance fee, that would not be possible.”
Commission President Mike Rosenau asked how many runs the EMS had in 2020, to which EMS Director Sheila Marsh stated between 1,200 and 1,300. As the Commissioners scanned the financial documents, Rosenau asked about the accounts receivable, which he was told was from insurance billings from patients. “What percentage do you all, say average year (from billings),” asked Rosenau. He was told by Silk and Marsh that they only receive 35% to 40% of what is billed.
A billing company out of Buckhannon takes care of EMS billing, which receives 6% as their fee. Silk explained that a lot of what is received is regulated by Medicare and other insurance companies that will only cover a percentage of what the bills actually cost, which is partially the reason EMS only receives a percentage of their actual bills. This fiscal year, the county budgeted $110,000 to go towards the EMS, and they received $91,000 from the hotel/motel tax.
Commissioner Fred Davis asked if EMS had received word if their ambulance that had recently been in an accident due to road conditions was deemed a total loss. Marsh stated they are still waiting on the insurance adjuster to evaluate the unit. She added that a new, empty unit would cost approximately $140,000.
Prosecuting Attorney Savannah Hull Wilkins presented the Commissioners with two new hires within her office, Joni Moore and Donna Helmick, legal secretaries. Davis made a motion to approve the new employees with all in favor.
County Administrator Sheila DeVilder began her employee report noting an error in the last commission article that misidentified her as the county planner. She stated the data room organization has been completed and all documents needed for the CARES Act and HERO funds, however, a notice came from the Governor’s office that all funds have been put on hold. DeVilder was encouraged to continue filing the papers monthly in case money is reallocated to these purposes. The security system was due to begin earlier that week, although has been delayed slightly due to the availability of some of the equipment, but should begin soon.
Beverly Cantrell, Director of 911, has been meeting with communication companies to consider installing a texting option to 911. There will be public education on this capability prior to the service being activated.
Bailey Falls, Animal Shelter Director, told Commissioners that their new board of advisors met earlier that day where officers were elected. Serving as Chairman is Donna Helmick, Vice Chair is Bob Eckholm, and Cindy Goughnour will be serving as Secretary. A grant to the W.Va. Department of Agriculture will be submitted by February 1 for the spay and neuter program along with a grant for the CARES Act by February 12. An updated draft for the county dog ordinance is in progress which Falls hopes to be ready to present at the next meeting. She added that the average stay for each animal has been tremendously decreased to 27 days per animal. A COVID friendly rabies clinic is also in the planning stages for this Spring she concluded.
An application was received from Jon Bush for consideration for the Ambulance Authority Board. Commissioner Lowell Moore moved to appoint Bush to that committee. Rosenau asked Silk how many people serve on the board, to which he replied there are currently seven, Bush would make eight. “The bylaws allow for nine, minimum is five, maximum is nine,” said Silk. Davis offered a second to the motion, followed by brief discussion as to how the process could be made easier for individuals to sign up to serve on county boards.
“With your appointment of Jon, you’re proposal, I like, Jon’s a good guy, I’m not saying that, thing I’m saying is I don’t like to have boards, I wish you would’ve come with two people, because, I don’t like even numbers on boards,” said Rosenau. Marsh responded that when the remaining open seat is filled, that will give the board nine which cannot result in a tie. “But I’m just saying if we appoint Jon tonight you’ll have eight,” answered Rosenau. “But we’ve had that before in the past,” began Marsh before Rosenau replied, “I know you have, Sheila, the only thing I’m saying is I don’t like that.” Silk said, “It would be a rare occurrence we would have a tie.” Rosenau then asked for all in favor of appointing Bush to the Ambulance Authority when all voted in favor, therefore the motion carried.
There was an error in the naming of a road at a previous meeting, therefore Moore made a motion to remove Owens Camp Lane and change to Living Stone Lane. The Commissioners all agreed therefore the change will be made.
Jenny Newland with Downstream Strategies was present again to discuss a potential partnership with the County Commission to offer planning services for the county, especially in the absence of one in that position at this time. Davis stated he would like to have a work session with Rosenau and Moore to discuss incoming projects and upcoming tasks that are or need to be addressed prior to entering into an agreement. Both Commissioners agreed with Davis and the agenda item was tabled.
Moore moved to approve the payments as presented with Davis and Rosenau in agreement. None of the Commissioners had a report to offer with the exception of Rosenau stating he is still working to become familiar with the position and has been a learning experience.
The next meeting of the Tucker County Commission will be held on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 9 a.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom. Public are welcome and encouraged to attend and masks are required.