Rosemary Guida, Executive Director of Northern Pandhandle Workforce Investment Board, Region 5, addressed Tyler County Commission' regular meeting yesterday morning, outlining opportunities currently available for local residents.
"As you know, our fiscal year started July first of this year," said Guida, "but due to the deadlock in Washington, our funds have only recently been made available."
"West Virginia was one of only 9 states who actually got an increase in funding, instead of cutbacks," added Guida, who went on to enumerate several opportunities now available. Programs currently underway include the ShaleNET Project, Individual Training Account Program, Rapid Response, Employment Subsidy Program, and Training 4 Our Future Programs.
The ShaleNET Project offers eligible individuals project curriculum, certifications, and pre-employment training for employment in the region's booming Marcellus Shale area. The 4.9 million dollar grant, funded through the Dept. of Labor, hopes to place 3,000 WIA candidates into jobs within the natural gas industry during the next 2-1/2 years.
"Will these people be required to pass a drug screen prior to entering the program?" questioned Commission President Charles "Pork" Smith. "Gas companies are taking a hit for not hiring local workers, but it's a little unfair to them, when local workers can't pass a drug screen."
Guida confirmed the candidates for the program would be required to pass a drug screen prior to training. "It has been difficult to find local workers who can pass a drug screen," Guida concurred.
"Companies test for marijuana using hair follicles," she explained. "In order to pass that screen, individuals must be drug-free for at least 60 days."
"There is a problem with prescription drug use, as well," added Guida.
Classes will be offered at West Virginia Northern CC's New Martinsville campus in the near future. Although course curriculum has not been set for the program, the school will offer a beginning class for eligible students.
Guida told commissioners a total of 129 participants were either enrolled or had completed training in the Individual Training Account Program, with 112 residents waiting to enroll in a training program.
The Rapid Response Program aided 87 workers in July, providing information and services to employees in the area who had experienced job loss. The program links community services with affected employees to assist them in securing new jobs.
Workforce's Employment Subsidy Program, funded through the Dept. of Health and Human Resources, has currently placed 11 participants into the job force, and is seeking more employers for the project. Private, not-for-profit, private non-profit, and public employers are eligible through the program to employ TANF recipients for a 12 month period through the program, which offers 100 per cent reimbursement for wages paid.
The Training 4 Our Future Project, which provides, jobs, work readiness and computer skills training to disabled youth, had a total of 50 area participants.
"This program was a huge success," said Guida. "Parents loved it, and the kids were thrilled to participate."
Upon completion of the program, each participant received a laptop computer. "It was like Christmas for them," said Guida, adding, "The parents and students were very thankful."
"I want to compliment Tyler County Schools," added Guida. "They are always very cooperative, and just wonderful to work with."
Commission thanked Guida for her presentation, and asked to be kept informed on the progress of the upcoming programs.
Representatives from the Tyler County Fire Association addressed commission concerning a proposal to put a bond levy on the upcoming May ballot, in order to maintain the five county volunteer fire departments - Shirley, Alma, Middlbeourne, Sistersville, and Paden City. Commissioners agreed to consider the proposal and referred the matter to county attorney D. Luke Furbee, who will advise commission on the feasibility of the plan.
Linda Henriksen and Maranda Huffman of Olive Branch Animal Rescue requested consideration for funds for the no-kill animal shelter, in the amount of $6,000, to be used to defray costs incurred by the organization.
"We are doing no animal intake at this time," said Henrksen. "We have overextended ourselves, trying to rescue dogs."
"Why are we spending money for a humane officer," she asked commission. "The sheriff's office has not been following through with this problem. I'm not saying the sheriff's office isn't doing its job," she remarked. "Because of other duties, they are unavailable."
"At this point, the question is, do we stay in operation, or do we shut down?" said Henriksen. "It seems every five or six months we are coming to the commission, asking for five or six thousand dollars. I would ask commission to consider making a $2,000 monthly donation to the shelter."
"Right now, the problem is money," remarked Commissioner Smith. "However, you're taking a lot of the load off (the county), which you shouldn't have to do."
"The animal issue, is, by code, the county's responsibility," County Commissioner Eric Vincent remarked. "I will make a motion to approve the $6,000 in funds at this time." The motion was approved by commission.
Tom Cooper, OEM Director, presented commissioners with a grant application in the amount of $6,000, which commission authorized. The HMEP grant (hazardous material emergency preparedness) is used to increase effectiveness in safely and efficiently handling hazardous materials and incidents, and is 100 per cent reimbursable.
Commissioner John Stender gave his report to commission, saying the contractor hired to repair the roof of Tyler County Magistrate offices would begin the work "as soon as the weather clears up."
Stender also informed commission the contractor who performs maintenance on the courthouse clock has scheduled routine cleaning and maintenance between Nov. 28-30.
Stender noted that Tyler County 4-H extension agent Veronica Wilcox had submitted two grants, totaling $25,000, with the approval of the commission. Commission voted to act as fiscal agents for the grant funds.
According to Stender, the newly renovated fitness center at the Senior Center has seen an increase in usage. "It's very nice," said Stender. The center is open until 6 p.m. on weekdays and noon on Saturday. The center is open for public use for a small donation fee.
Stender concluded his remarks by commenting, "I would like to commend our prosecutor, Mr. Furbee, who spoke to the 'retirement meeting. They were very appreciative of the information he presented."
Vincent then addressed the meeting, updating members concerning activities of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council (MOVRC) board meeting. "Tyler County projects are still in contention," said Vincent. "Our courthouse project and community development project are among the top 50."
Vincent informed commissioners he had recently spoken to West Virginia University Political Science seniors as part of a forum on the comparisons and contrasts of large and small county government.
"I will say, I am grateful to be part of a small county government, versus a large one,"said Vincent.
Vincent concluded his report by requesting a resolution be approved to re-enforce existing code concerning the sale of county or district property, which was agreed upon by commissioners.
Smith concluded the meeting by informing commissioners a grant for the purposes of courthouse improvements had been denied. "It's not good news," said Smith. The grantor requested commission submit a letter of recommendation in order to secure additional funding for the 2012 fiscal year. Commission did not vote to approve the request.
Those in attendance at Tuesday's meeting were: Charles Smith, John Stender, Eric Vincent, County Clerk Teresa Hamilton, Deputy Clerk Amy Glover, Linda Henricksen, Maranda Huffman, Tom Cooper, Christopher Keller, Jack Hayes, Rosemary Guida, D. Luke Furbee, and TC Fire Association members Andrew Pratt, Robert George, and Jim Work.