By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Wendy Madden, a field representative from Senator Manchin’s office, was present at the Tucker County Commission meeting. The field representative monitors and updates the Member and District Director on district and local issues. This position acts as a liaison to federal, district, and local agencies for the member and constituents and answers casework correspondence and verbal communications with constituents. Madden formally worked with Congressman McKinley’s office. Madden said, “I just stopped by to reintroduce myself. Anything you need help with, a state or federal agency, just call on me.”
Ambulance Authority President, Dennis Filler, provided an update on the work being completed by the authority. Filler said, “I have provided you (commissioners) a handout with basically all the facts of what we have done over the last 45 days for EMS. The bottom line is we have gone through the organization from top to bottom. We have saved whatever is good. Whatever needed repaired, modified, replaced, upgraded has essentially been done or is near in completion of doing so.
We are now at that point where we have a solid foundation for EMS services in Tucker County. At the moment we are providing, for sure, one crew 24/7 and on some days we have a second group. Our interim director (Amanda Simmons) is currently in school, that is why she is not here today, learning the fundamentals of directorship. She has routinely been in contact with EMS organizations throughout the state to find out all of their best practices, techniques, and methodologies so that we can adopt those to our community space in order to provide better services.
Some of the things we have done right now other than really go through all of our equipment and all of our repair bills will be high this month. At one time we only had one ambulance now we have four that are operational as of last night. All are road worthy. I would ride in any of them and that is essentially the test that is applied.
We do have four pieces of equipment that are operational and we are outfitting two of those rigs with high-capacity wireless modems that allow our life packs to communicate back to state medical agencies and receiving hospitals. So that we can now use telemetry to provide real time information back to the facilities that control us and we work with, as well, as those receiving hospitals so we can provide better patient care.
Essentially anything that Doc Martin (EMS Medical Director, Dr. P.S. Martin) has essentially asked us for, we have gone in and done.” Filler continued explaining that the organization was building up a part-time roster and training new candidates, but critical shortage was the lack of paramedics. So far there have been no responses to the job announcements posted throughout the state networks. One strategy Filler mentioned was working with current staff to be trained as paramedics, but it would take time and money to do so.
Commissioner Mike Rosenau said, “The lines of communication have been open, and we appreciate that. This past month has been good. The communication has been good with us. The needs addressed to us have been real. You have facts to back up your needs and it really help us when allocating tax dollars and to know what the actual need is, and we appreciate that. I can also tell you that we will be going to Charleston, legislature is in session, three time in the next 30 days. We set up appointments so we can report back on what the state level is working on as far as funding for EMS. We hope that with working with them that we will find viable sources of income to support our EMS.”
Commissioner Fred Davis added, “We are having a good working relationship. I like where our working relationship is right now. And I appreciate the fact that you and your board are not getting paid to do this. I know you guys are working overtime and are not getting paid. It is not an easy job to make everyone happy with the job you are doing but you are seeing the dollars and cents and coming back to show them to us. Your bookkeeping is better since you added the accountant than when the public always questioned your finances and thought you were keeping secrets. That makes the working relationship with us and the tax payers a whole lot better for all of us. I appreciate you guys looking into everything and having a meeting with us to let us know where you are standing now so we can all be on the same page.”
Rosenau suggested having a work session after the Commission visited with state legislators and thanked Filler for presenting an update. Filler said, “We want to make sure that the community understands that EMS is here to serve the community and hopefully they will find us a lot more approachable and maybe not so suspect whenever they see our EMTs in our community. We want our EMTs to be in the community. This is their home as well and hopefully we can make that relationship a lot better.”
During employee reports County Administrator Shelia DeVilder stated that she had received several calls from out-of-state property owners concerned that they had received their EMS ordinance fee bill. DeVilder informed the callers that the ordinance fee was no longer in effect, but donations could be made to P.O. Box 333, Parsons, West Virginia, 26287.
Joe Long reported that work was being completed at EMS stations one and two. Some repairs being done included fixing the shower at Station One, providing a hot water line in the garages to enable personnel to wash the trucks and upgrading the electric at Station Two. Rosenau added by saying, “I want to compliment the maintenance crew. The maintenance crew in doing all this work themselves has saved the County thousands of dollars. Beyond your every day activities you work into your schedules to do the maintenance on these buildings that normally should have been contracted out. We the Commission want to commend you and thank you for doing that for our county.”
Long also reported that maintenance had also installed a mop sink at the Tucker County Animal Shelter and completed a lot of work at Camp Kidd. Rosenau said, “What our goal at Camp Kidd is we want to make it self-sustainable by renting it and bringing in income.” Some of the improvements made include installing a new stove in the main lodge and repairing the area under the kitchen. There are plans to have Hamrick PSD upgrade the water lines from a four-inch to a six-inch line. This would allow for the installation of a fire hydrate on the grounds and a fire suppression system in the main lodge.
Rosenau said, “God forbid anything happens, but we would have a fire hydrant right at Camp Kidd’s main lodge to make it safer for the kids. Those are things that you do not see that is happening down there, but there are improvements to help the county move forward in making it self-sustained.” OEM Director, Kevin White, added that another importance of Camp Kidd was its use an emergency shelter for the residents. White said, “That is our emergency shelter on this end of the county. So, if we have a mass amount of people without heat, power, their house has been washed away with a flood, or simply as we need the Red Cross to come and prepare meals that is where they would go on this end of the county. Thomas has one at the Community Center and that is the one on that end of the county. Those facilities, while it is great what we are upgrading, it is important that it is a shelter, and it is usable.”
White also reported about the big freeze that happened during Christmas week. White said, “Everybody knows about the big freeze, the snow and ice, the 40 mph winds that happened the week of Christmas that kept us busy. Behind the scenes many people do not see that I was working with the electric company to be sure we got power back on in critical areas as fast as we possibly could. Some of our infrastructures such as the water plant in Parsons was without power. Their generator failed and we had about two days left of water for Parsons. Davis water plant, they had an issue. I was working with all of those people throughout the week of Christmas and Christmas Day even to make sure we mitigated and got our infrastructure back up and running. Our communication was down for a while. It was a very eventful short event for everybody.”
White finished his report by stating that he has been working with 911 Interim Director Mike Simmons and the Forestry Department to form an open line of communication that will help add marked trail lines to the new CAD system being installed at the 911 call center. He also stated that the Commodity Flow Study was complete and after he finished reviewing it he would provide the results to the Commission.
During the Commissioner’s reports Davis spoke on the collaboration he has been working on with Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College. Davis reported that were four classes now being offered at the school that included grant writing, medical assistant, phlebotomy, and CDLs (Commercial Driving License). He added that anyone interested in the CDL class should call the school and they would get them registered as soon as possible.
Davis also provided an update concerning the Blackwater Ministerial Association Food Bank that recently had to relocate from one place to a church basement in Davis. The association now has to relocate again by August. Davis stated he reached out to DeVilder for her assistance in helping find a new location. DeVilder provided information for a location out off of Route 48/93 near the National Youth Science Center. Davis has reached out to the Davis Mayor Alan Tomson and is hopeful they will be able to work something out to benefit the food bank.
Rosenau ended the meeting with his report on a new pathway being done at Camp Kidd that will allow access to the 100 acres in the lower fields. In order to access these fields before the Commission had to obtain permission from the neighboring land owner. The only other way was across the golf course, which is not ideally the way to go.
The next Tucker County Commission meeting will be held on January 25, 2023, at 4 p.m. and located at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom at 211 First Street, Parsons, WV, 26287.