By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Pastor Dave Snyder asked for blessings over the commission meeting prior to The Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting held on September 26. Commission President Diane Hinkle opened the meeting, followed by the reading and approval of the work session and September 12 meeting minutes.
Two new proclamations were on the table as the first item of business for the evening. The first declared was to recognize the week of September 24 through the 28 as Retired School Employees Week. Commissioner Lowell Moore read the proclamation followed by pictures with those who attended the meeting with the commissioners. “We appreciate the impact you have had on our community throughout the year”, expressed Hinkle, “We truly appreciate all that you do”.
The second proclamation was to recognize the month of September as First Responders month. This includes law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, fire fighters, 911 service workers, volunteers, and everyone involved. We appreciate your service, all of you”, addressed Hinkle prior to the reading of the proclamation by Commissioner Patrick Darlington. The commissioners thanked and shook the hands of those who were in attendance before a quick photo.
Elected Officials reports started with County Clerk Sherry Simmons stating the 2017-2018 financial statements were complete and sent out for publication. Poll worker training days are set for October 9 and 11, and early voting begins October 24 and runs through November 3. As a reminder, Election Day is November 6 and the county clerk’s office is in full swing preparation mode. “The county clerk’s office is also hosting a flu shot clinic and it is sponsored by St. George Medical Clinic”, Simmons stated. “It is scheduled for October 10 and everyone is invited, just bring your insurance card, please”. Simmons also added they are involved in a federal audit that is also set to begin on October 1.
County Administrator Joel Goughnour provided the employee reports and was pleased to announce he has a grant ready to be submitted once it receives one more signature and it is a week ahead of the deadline. To date, the EMS fees received have totaled $221,760, to which Hinkle expressed, “We appreciate all those who have paid their EMS Fees”. There were no correspondence, county board appointments, or road names to be discussed at this time.
Moving on to new business, first addressing the WV Courthouse Facilities Improvements contractual agreement, in which Hinkle has been assigned to act on the county commissioners behalf. A motion was made to accept in which all was in agreement thereof. Next order of business was to rescind the dilapidated building ordinance that was dated back to 1998. “It become apparent the ordinance that was on the books was poorly outdated, it was written in 1998”, proclaimed Hinkle, “It was never really enforceable”. The resolution before the commissioners was to remove it entirely from the books to rid ordinances that were no longer applicable. “This is just the start of the process before we can begin drafting a new resolution”, stated Hinkle, “we need to clean up the books with the old”, she added.
First and final waivers were reviewed by the prosecuting attorney and presented to the commissioners for approval, of which all were approved. Simmons spoke again regarding the fiscal year 2017-18 financial statements, which is what is sent to the newspaper. It was reviewed and signed to be sent to the auditor.
Terry Silk expressed to the county commissioners the Tucker County Building Authority request of their full support in constructing the emergency services support facility, set to break ground in spring of 2019. Judith Cronauer was in the crowd to proclaim her stance on this new facility. “I want to point out how far we are from hospitals”, Cronauer stated, “It’s a good forty five minutes to a hospital”. “We seem to have a dearth of law enforcement up there”, she added, and hoped that this facility would be able to also serve host to law enforcement, making their presence more prevalent in that area. Also in attendance, Gerard Lechowick spoke briefly about his desire for this project to be supported. “It would be really helpful for us to have this”, he added. “Having a presence up there doesn’t just serve those who live up there, but it also reduced the response time for those who live in the lower end of the county”, explained Hinkle. Moore stated, “I move to accept the set price from Roberts Estates in the amount of $466,500 to build on the one acre parcel that the county commission owns in the Davis area, construction to begin on or around the first of March, 2019”. “Looking at this it is affordable to the county, it can be done within the confines of the budget, and it does not use the EMS Fees”, explained Darlington. “Western Pocahontas County donated this property to the county back in the 80’s and the primary purpose of their donation was to serve the community”, added Hinkle. “This has been talked about for a long time, when or if that parcel would ever be used to benefit the community, so this is a good opportunity and service to everyone and I think it’s moving the county forward”, suggested Hinkle. The commission has asked for letters of opinion in which they received a petition with one hundred eighty six signatures in support of the facility, as well as letters from forty- four businesses in Davis and Thomas who are all in support. “I think it’s time to move”, exclaimed Moore, “it’s been a long time coming”. A motion was made and unanimously approved.
Ambulance Authority representative Larry Armbruster discussed briefly their need for this facility. “Our current facilities do not meet various state codes”, he allowed. Armbruster also reiterated Hinkle’s statement that none of the EMS fees are being used for this facility, even though the ambulance authority will be the main ones housed in the unit. What he did do was recap what they initially needed this EMS fee for, which included but is not limited to: providing 24/7 coverage in two stations, response to the majority of calls within ten to fifteen minutes, increase employees pays to more competitive rates, increase number of paramedics, maintain equipment and purchase new as needed, and continue to maintain a third station. Armbruster addressed these goals individually to determine whether or not they were in fact being met. “Response time remains satisfactory, we are reasonable with our 24/7 two crews, and we are staying reasonably close to the salary schedule that we proposed in our five year plan” he elaborated. “We have not yet however been able to start setting up a reserve fund for new equipment”, he expressed. For example, the ambulance authority is in need of new cardiac monitoring equipment at $30,000 each and need four or five units. Neither have they been able to hire the amount of paramedics that they need, but they have been staffing their three stations. “As of June 30 of 2018, the ambulance authority received approximately $189,900”, he stated. “Our income totals were up to around $830,000, billing of around $730,000, plus discounts of $313,000 so just over $ 400,000 of income from billing”, he detailed. “County funds as well as hotel motel tax of $210,000, the ordinance fee as I said brought in about $190,000, and various donations and miscellaneous totaled about $14-15,000, so a total income net of $833,000”, he explained. “The ordinance fee money is 22.8% of our total income”, he added. Continuing on, Armbruster detailed out how the ambulance authority spends their money, including personnel costs including insurance and benefits making up 18% at about $587,700, operating costs including gas, oil, tires at $144,000, office expenses at around $38,000, and equipment at about $2,000 (does not include vehicle maintenance). “76% of our expenditures go to salaries”, Armbruster added. “With income at $833,000, expenditures of $772,000, and a starting balance of about $39,000, we had total net income over expenses of about $22,500”, he provided. This is where his good news ended and he shifted gears to the issues at hand. “We’ve only been able to staff a second full time crew three to four nights a week”, he added as he described what it costs to staff a crew. For one paramedic and one EMT with salary, benefits, and insurance is about $380 per shift. That is a need of around one hundred and fifty shifts they need to finance which comes to an additional need of $57,000 per year. “So what looks like an excess really is still a major thirty some thousand dollar downfall”, he said concerned. “The ambulance authority appreciates those who have paid and ask for those who have not chosen to support for whatever reason to reconsider, because we are spending the money wisely”, he concluded.
All erroneous assessments were approved as well as approval of payments. Commissioner’s reports were following, beginning with Commissioner Moore. He has met with the Department of Highway staff regarding fixing the bridge at Lime Hollow Run in the Leadmine area. The DOH had planned to already begin, however the necessary equipment wasn’t available and they hope to begin next week. The project at Hogback is approximately 90-95% complete and that will be finished up soon, Moore added.
Commissioner Darlington mentioned the closing of Sheetz at midnight; however another store is set to come in and take its place in a couple months. “Our thoughts go out to the employees and the people this will cause a hardship for”, Darlington expressed. “I did speak with the manager this morning”, commented Hinkle, “She said eight of the employees have decided to stay with the company but of course they won’t be working in Tucker County, that’s a loss to Tucker County either way”, she added.
Hinkle reported on their visit to Charleston with the Finance Chair exploring options to help support emergency services. The commissioners have a to-do list and are planning to return for another meeting tentatively set for November. Hinkle attended Flanagan Hill Fall Fest and said the members there expressed their gratitude for the Parks and Recreation grant they needed for some infrastructure at that facility. Hinkle also had the privilege to welcome the economic development authorities who are meeting for the conference at Canaan Valley Resort. “It was an honor to represent the county there”, she said.
Darlington ended the meeting with inviting everyone out to the leaf peeper’s festival prior to a motion made to adjourn. Next meeting will be held Wednesday, October 10 at 9 a.m. in the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.