By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Commissioner Fred Davis seeks the money promised by Governor Jim Justice but has not yet been received by anyone. Gov. Jim Justice unveiled a $10 million emergency management fund for West Virginia EMS agencies in his state of the state address on Jan. 27, 2022. The state lost 35 percent of its paramedics over two years, according to Boone County Emergency Ambulance Authority Director Bryan Justice.
According to an article by Leila Merrill published February 2, 2022, “We have done this to try to retain or recruit, you know, good, good, good people,” Justice said. “These people have given so much. You talk about how they run to the fire, and they surely have.”
Davis stated: “The Governor needs to do his job and get us money. He has all the money. He is sitting on the money, and he will not give it out. They are sitting on all that money for interest. They are sitting on it to make them look good. We are working for you guys (EMS) and we are going to make it just give us some time.”
These needed funds are amid a crisis currently in not only Tucker County but all counties in West Virginia. To help with the crisis Commissioner Lowell Moore reported upon his retirement December 31, he personally will be going to Charleston to lobby for the Amusement Tax.
Maurice Greaver addressed the Commission concerned with the fact that the balloted levy tax has failed to pass.
Greaver stated, “Most people do not want more taxes. And so, it just strikes me that we are now in a position where it looks like we are going to significantly shrink the EMS staff and the number of stations. And that is not what people in age bracket want to hear about. Because we are not a big county, we are a mountainous county, and it takes time to get from one place to the other. If we are going to have one crew, that is concerning to people. It is also concerning to the EMS staff. So, that is my two cents and I hope that you (the Commission) will come up with something quickly to address that.”
Commissioner Mike Rosenau explained that the wording for the ballot had to state excess tax. This wording is per state code and the Commission can not change the wording. Rosenau stated: “We talked about putting the fee on the ballot but could not put the fee on the ballot. It had to be as a levy. The Commission can enact a fee but not a levy. The people can enact a levy but not a fee. That is why it had to be put on the ballot.”
The next guest speaker was Angela Mitchell. Mitchell expressed concerns about the Commission removing the $50 fee for EMS. Mitchell and the EMS crew present would like for the fee to remain in place to provide the needed funds to operate and crew members to keep their jobs. Mitchell said, “That is something you guys can do; we cannot do that.”
Mitchell also expressed concerns about the removal of a sign at Station 2 that was in support of the levy tax by having the images that portrayed either life or death. Davis removed the sign after a complaint from a citizen that stated it was offensive. Mitchell responded by saying: “Do you know what offends me? It offends me that I have put 16 years into this, and you (the Commission) act like we are nothing. Do you think someone can just come in off the streets and do what we do and that we are disposable?”
Mitchell questioned whether the Commission was going to do away with the $50 fee or where they going to meet and discuss their options. Davis said he had a few ideas that he was going to discuss with his fellow Commission members. Davis said, “Us three Commissioners are going to have to work together, and I have an idea I want to start with and go from there.”
A better relationship with the EMS crew and the public is one of the ways Davis stated could help with issues. There have been problems mentioned and good things said about EMS. Davis would like to see going forward that everyone works together and get the relationships on a forefront. Mitchell suggested a once a month get together with the public where everyone could express their concerns.
Davis stated he would like to get a committee together that would include people that were against the levy and for the levy. The purpose of this would be to come to reason and to find out what has to be done going forward. Davis said: “If I do not get the people that disagrees in on these meetings, we are going to go nowhere.”
Dakotta Pritt asked the commission: “Could you all sit there, as of today, and say that the majority of two out of three would vote to keep the fee of $50? Can you say that today? That you would also back turning it over to the proper authorities, be it the Sheriff or whoever, to enforce that? Can you sit there today and tell us you will make that happen? You all have the power to say this is the fee and this is what is going to happen. And you have the power to make it happen, so can you all sit there today and tell and if not, why can’t you tell me?”
Mainly, Pritt was wondering if the Commission was going to do away the $50 fee or where they are going to keep it. Davis was first to speak on the issue and said the public had spoken against the levy and in turn against the fee. Davis explained when he took on the position of Commissioner for Tucker County, he promised the public to do away with the fee. Davis expressed he will vote to do away with the fee. Rosenau also expressed he will be voting to remove the $50 fee. Moore continues to stand for the fee.
Guest speaker Director of EMS, Shelia Marsh spoke her opinion on the failed support from the Commissioners and incidents where the Commission accused the EMS of abuse. Marsh stated: “I have been with EMS since 1979. This is the best EMS we have ever had since the fee was enacted. To move forward we have two crews on almost every day of the week. It is very rarely (for one crew to be on) until the last two weeks. Which that came for the County Commission’s excess levy and the public attacking everybody. We cannot even go on a scene. It was not like this before. We can not even go scene with a patient without being cussed about the levy or the fee.
County Commissioners, two of you, have not really supported EMS. You have done things that have caused hard feelings with all of our EMS people. And you know that to be a fact. You have taken the word of a public person and you have persecuted us without even coming and asking for an explanation until it was so far out of hand that there was no way to stop it. And I have been one of those people that you have done that to.
I picked up a patient on Christmas day and that patient’s family made a complaint. You all as County Commissioners shared letters and pictures all over. It was in the newspaper that I abused a patient that was not true.
So, when I would go to a scene people were looking at me. Do you want an EMS person taking care of you that has been accused of abuse? Well, what do you think the other people think?
So, when you have a County Commission that does not support your EMS, talks about us with other agencies, and downgrades us. We keep doing our job, cause that’s what we are here for. My question to you is if you get rid of the $50 fee that is in place right now and there is no money coming in except for our billing. I hope that neither one of you need an ambulance for your family. Cause once we lose some of these people that are employed here from other counties. Do you think they are going to stay here? We stay here because this is our county, this our people and they choose to come here because they want to be a part of EMS here.
But when there’s consistent negativity from the County Commissioners toward EMS how long do you think they want to stay? I have already lost paramedics because of that and when we do not have to staff the ambulances it is not ok.”
In other Commission business, Tucker County Sheriff Jacob “Jake” Kopec reported that the state will now take over the selling of properties that are behind in taxes. Kopec explained his department would go through the necessary training next Wednesday and his office will be closed that day. The training to help the Sheriff’s department better understand the new rules and regulations. One of the new rules mentioned is the possibility of reducing the time allowed for a property owner to regain his property once sold from 18 months to 30 days. Kopec and his team will have more information upon completion of training.
Kopec reported he has one new officer that has completed certification to become a deputy and is hoping to fill a deputy position from 14 applicants. Kopec is administering testing in June. All testing is mandated by the state.
To become an officer, one would have to first pass a physical fitness test. Then a written test is administered the same day. An oral interview board is the next step upon completion of physical and written tests. A physical exam is then performed, followed by a polygraph examination. The testing is designed to get tougher as the participants go through the process. Once all tests are completed Kopec stated they decide which candidate they are going to hire.
The next Tucker County Commissioner meeting will be on May 25, 2022 at 6 p.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom. Meetings are open to the public and guest speakers are limited to three minutes.