By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
The Commissioner gave an update on the Senate Bill 429. This bill would place a $1 fee on entertainment tickets throughout the County to help fund EMS and fire departments. Rosenau explained, “It would help with fire companies in the state and EMS. It would be $1 put on tickets for an amusement or recreation thing. We have had so much push back it has been unbelievable.”
Rosenau explained how things worked in Charleston by saying, “A bill is presented by a Senator or Representative. Senator Randy Smith introduced this bill on the Senate side. It passed the Senate side and was sent to the House. It was assigned to two committees. The first committee it was assigned to was economic development/tourism. Gary Howell is the chairman of that committee. Until Delegate Howell says it can be brought by committee it lays there.
We called Delegate Howell’s office. I called him personally every day since it was assigned to him. Not one time has he returned my call. I called his office requesting a meeting and the Tucker County Commission would go down anytime he says he is available. Well, he was out sick for two days. I called again. The secretary who is a wonderful lady and very nice said ‘Commissioner Rosenau I will try my best to get ahold of Delegate Howell to see if he will be available to have a meeting with you.’
Well, the secretary about twenty minutes later called me, and she said Commissioner I am really sorry, but Delegate Howell does not want to meet with the Tucker County Commission. The delegate did not want to meet with the Tucker County Commission!
Delegate Howell represents Mineral County. Your Commission made a trip to Mineral County last week and asked their Commission directly since Delegate Howell is their state representative would you please contact Delegate Howell because he is not returning our calls. They said sure. Right in front of us they get on their phones and start texting Howell that this is a good bill please get back if there is any questions with the Tucker County Commission. Guess what? Nothing.
Delegate Howell guess he assumes that he knows what is best for our county or for any county in West Virginia that has a volunteer fire company or EMS. Like I have told the community hundreds of times, tourism is a hard thing to fight at our state capital, but if there is no ambulance there to take the tourist (if something was to happen) what reflection is that on the State of West Virginia and what reflection is that of Tucker County.
That is why we have fought so hard for years to put $1 on amusement in Tucker County. One dollar! Our delegate told us ‘Well, Mike, it does not look like it is going to the floor this year. Next year we are going to form another game plan.”
Davis added by saying, “I asked Mr. Hott, our delegate, he said it is not going to go through this year, so I said do me a favor and give me a call in two months when this is over. Let me know what we must do to make things right and make this pass. He tried to tell me it was over a $1 for a thing of golf balls. I started laughing on the dollar. People are not going to go on vacation if it cost an extra dollar. (What Davis is hearing from other people.) When I go on my vacation to Gettysburg, I love it. I do not call and see if they raised anything for $1. If you are going you are going. I am tired of hearing the bull crap about it.
I love tourism. I love people coming here. That pays our bills. A lot of people get aggravated about it, but we cannot have anything unless we have tourism to pay our bills. If they pull out and leave, we would be broke. That is a fact.”
Rosenau said, “The only thing I am asking of tourism to do is the same thing we Commissioners do. We pay our share for emergency services out of our taxes that we receive in this county. The only thing I am asking is if you are a guest coming to this county to entertain yourself in Tucker County, please pay a portion of it. Because it is hard for us, 6,500 people, to support one million guests coming each year.
When our emergency services are on a call here and we have one squad 24/7 and they have done a wonderful job of trying to fill in the gaps of when our peak times are to have a full squad, but we have a budget that is so tight. What I am asking is they pay $1 for their fair share. To me it is a no brainer.”
Davis explained that they do their best as Commission to take care of everyone with the hotel/motel tax. Davis said, “We try to help everybody with that. We used to have coal mines that helped everybody out, but we do not have that anymore. We help our community centers, our places where we have emergency shelter, our fire departments, and when you only have so much money you try to help people with that.”
Rosenau went to explain that tourism gets 50 percent of the hotel/motel tax right off the top and that there was no justification for the Commission to ask for help with what the county needs for the EMS and fire companies. They are a non-profit organization, so they do not follow the same guidelines as every other ethics commission such as the Commission has to follow. Rosenau said, “We give $100,000 to our EMS. We give $100,000 to our fire companies. We give $110,000 out of our regular budget for EMS. We had extra funds out of our hotel/motel tax budget last year, so we gave the EMS $40,000 and each one of fire companies $10,000. We give our share.”
Animal Shelter Director Bailey Falls presented her monthly report to the Commission. Rosenau asked for an update on the dog that gained a lot of attention for being tied to a tree and shot in the neck area. Falls reported that the dog was doing great and will be continued to be cared for by the vet’s office until the end of the week, and thanks to the huge support of the community the shelter was able to raise $13,000 in donations. Falls said, “We were able to pay off all of the vet’s offices that we work with and it was amazing how the community came forward.” The incident is under investigation in cooperation with the Tucker County Sheriff’s Office.
Rosenau said, “The bad part was the dog getting injured. The next part is what Tucker County is made of and that is people coming together and helping.”
The Commission then accepted with regret the resignation of Margaret “Maggie” Keane as Animal Control Officer.
Eldon Plaughter was re-appointed by the Commission to the Parks and Recreation board. His term will expire December 31, 2024.
Assistant Director Kathy Phillips spoke to the Commission concerning the budget for the Five Rivers Public Library in Parsons and the Mountain Top Public Library in Thomas. Phillips thanked the Commission for their past support of the libraries and asked for continued support. Phillips said, “Libraries are a vital part of the community, small or large. We do make a difference in the lives of many people.”
Five Rivers was requesting a budget funding of $12,000 and the Mountain Top Library requested $14,500. Rosenau said, “Last year we gave $12,000 plus $3,500 from a grant that we had for reimbursement from COVID. What we need from that additional money last year as we explained to you is we need receipts. That must be justified through our grant.” Mountain Top Library Director Debbie Williams stated that they were not made aware of that request but would get the needed information to the Commission.
Commissioner Fred Davis made a motion to grant both libraries the requested amounts. Motion passed. Davis also congratulated the Mountain Top Library for placing second among all the libraries in the state of West Virginia. The trailer the library is in has been there since 1978 and needs replacement.
EMS Director Amanda Simmons presented to the Commission a request for replacing EMS’ cot systems. The new cot loading system will cost $67,000. The warranty will cover three years for the cot and two years for the stabilizing plate. Rosenau explained, “The cots we have now are very old. The cot systems we have now on our ambulances they require the EMTs or paramedics to actual lift so if my fat butt is on a gurney and try to lift me up and take me down the steps it is going to be hard to do.” The cots weigh about 150 pounds just by themselves but the new cots will be self-loading and can literally be pushed into the ambulance with a finger for up to a 700-pound patient.
Commissioner Tim Knotts made the motion to fund EMS $67,000 out of the ARP (American Rescue Plan) grant fund for a new cot lift system. The motion was approved. Rosenau said, “It has been a pleasure the last couple of months working together.”
Chair of Homeowners Voice Kathryn “Kathy” J. Knight informed the Commission of her partnership with West Virginia’s Attorney General’s office to advocate for HOA (Home Owners Association) of any type throughout the state. Knight said, “We are partnering with the Attorney General’s office to bring forth legislature in the 2024 session of some type because West Virginia has never had, ever, legal oversight of any type for HOAs.
There are two main problem areas for HOAs. We have the rogue HOAs and the zombie HOAs. The zombie HOAs are the ones that can not die. Somebody somewhere 20 years ago handed somebody in the county clerk’s office a piece of paper that said they were an HOA. Delegate up and dies, moves, or goes bankrupt you can not undo that in the present scenario at all. The Attorney General’s office has no oversight if something goes awry i.e., rogue HOA. We are 501c4 which means we can lobby, and we just came back from the legislature last week.”
A 501c4 is a tax code identifier used by the IRS for non-profit organizations that promote social welfare causes. Examples of 501c4 organizations include civic leagues, volunteer fire companies, and tenants’ rights groups. Knight explained that the Homeowners Voice is part of projects such as broadband initiative and food pantries.
Development Authority Director Steve Leyh requested a funding match for the Prodigi LEAD Broadband Project. Leyh said, “As you know broadband is a major issue for the county. This project is a state grant called the Line Extension Advancement and Development Program or LEAD program. We have an internet service provider that is interested in applying. That is how the program works. They want to run 126 miles of fiberoptic cable through Tucker County through Aurora to the central part of Tucker County.
Every address that they pass that is not identified as targeted they must pay a fee of $500. It comes up to about $900,000 worth of fees for those served addresses to hit the locations that are unserved. Mr. Waltrin from Prodigi is going to ask the state to waive some of that given Tucker County’s remote nature and given the fact that we have a very tiny budget and we do not really have the resources to do that. But it does look good if the County Commission has some skin in the game and contributes towards this project.”
If the project was granted by the state, the total cost would be an estimated $7.7 million. Prodigi has agreed to pay the match of $71,000 on the 146 miles through Preston County. There is no guarantee that Tucker County will receive this grant but Leyh said, “We have a shot and this is a good project. Prodigi is based in Preston County and they have had multiple rounds of success with the program.”
Rosenau said that during current work sessions with Leyh it was discussed what would be needed for a match. Rosenau motioned for a grant match of $50,000 from the ARP grant funding contingent upon the approval of the LEAD program grant. The motioned passed. This will bring another fiber optic internet provider competitor to the county if approved.
A memorandum of understanding with Community Corrections was approved. The grant received for the Community Corrections program has saved the county thousands of dollars.
The next meeting of the Tucker County Commission will be held on March 22, 2023, at 4 p.m. and located at the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.