County Commissioners Review VFD Ordinance
MIDDLEBOURNE — A.I. Boreman Elementary School student Layla Williamson is passionate about her cause – preserving the County Home.
During the Jan. 11 Tyler County Commission meeting, Williamson gave a short presentation about why the home should be restored. This fifth grade girl’s project about the 100-year-old county home won first place at the county-wide Social Studies Fair. Because of Williamson’s success at the Social Studies Fair, she will compete in March at the regional Social Studies Fair in Parkersburg.
Williamson showed poise and grace when she spoke to the commission about a fundraising proposal that may save the home. Her plan is to give a piggy bank to students at A.I. Boreman and Sistersville elementary schools with an insignia reading “Tyler County Home 100 Years 1917 -2017”. Williamson said her wish is to create awareness and spur extra funding to restore the county home. She requested that the commissioners provide the funding to purchase enough banks for both elementary schools in the county.
“The once beautiful home which filled hearts with hope when lives were in despair is now in need of desperate repair,” a poetic motto the little girl created to describe this project.
The commissioners decided to take Williamson’s suggestion under advisement.
After the meeting, Williamson said she was able to conquer her fears.
“At first I was very nervous, but once I started talking I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I felt the meeting went good. I’ll be excited to know if they decide to fund my project.”
A passion for restoration of Tyler County’s heritage must run in the family because Williamson’s grandmother, Peggy George, gave commissioners an update about fundraising efforts aimed at preserving the county home. She also announced that $10, 218 was raised between February and October.
As President of the Tyler County Restoration Committee, George invited the commissioners to a future meeting at the Middlebourne Volunteer Fire Department to meet with the grant writer for the county home.
Smith Plans Exit
Commissioner Charles Smith, who had been serving as vice president, announced his resignation on a timeline to be determined. Before Smith knows the official date that his retirement will be official, he said, the commissioner will meet in the near future with the retirement board in Charleston to “cross the T’s and dot the I’s.” Once the date has been established, the commissioners will publish information about a replacement and take resumes from interested parties.
Smith said though he still resides in Tyler County, he has purchased a home in Huntington where he intends to retire so as to spend more time with his family who lives there.
Eric Vincent will serve another term as commission president while John Stender will be vice president.
In related matters, commissioners were then appointed to their commission committees. Commissioner Vincent will be over the following committees: Extension Service, 911, MOVRC, Animal Control, Americans with Disability, Budget Finances, and Elections. Commissioner Stender’s committees consist of: Senior Citizens/Nutrition, Communication/Towers, Work Security, 4-H and Farm Community, and Elections. Commissioner Smith’s committees consist of: Economic Development Planning, Libraries, Homeland Security/OEM, Workforce Investment, LEPC, Tyler PSD, and Elections.
Representing the county’s fire departments, Jimmy Wade and Don Pickett presented an ordinance to the commissioners to raise funds for cash strapped volunteer fire departments. In many parts of the state, fire departments levy a fee for responding to fires that is paid out through property insurance. Wade stated they can bill up to $500 per incident unless it is a hazmat incident in which $500 is the max. The $500 is in everybody’s insurance clause. The fire department agreed that if an incident occurs and an individual’s insurance will not pay for the incident, then the fire department will not expect any victims to pay out of pocket for the incident.
The commission asked Prosecutor Luke Furbee look over the ordinance for legal purposes. Furbee admitted that he glanced over the ordinance and there were a few questions that he came up with such as a line stating, “this operation prohibits Volunteer Fire Departments of Tyler County to charging property owners as responsible, viable, or do not have insurance payment thereof.” Furbee said if the VFD’s don’t want to charge, then that is their business but he feels that the commissioners “being a governing body” should not put themselves in a position to make the distinction between those who choose to pay for fire insurance and those who do not. Furbee suggested that he could rewrite the ordinance to better flow with the commissioners format. Furbee also mentioned that it may be worth creating a County Fire Board. He says he would like to see the fire departments become self governing because the commissioners are not in a position to know exactly what is happening on a day to day basis.
Previously, Sistersville VFD had spoken to the commission about the housing of a new ambulance service.
During the Jan. 11 meeting, Furbee said the VFD has the authority to house the ambulance, but he would like to see the development of an Ambulance Authority to deal with day-to-day operations.
“It started out as a system of volunteers, but it has pretty much become a profession,” Furbee said. “These people are highly trained and it’s a career. I’m not sure as politicians or government lawyers that we are in a position to tell these people what they need to be doing.”
The contract will have to be rewritten and presented to the commissioners before any further action can be taken. A state EMS officer was scheduled to inspect the ambulance, go over all the policy procedures, and make sure everything is in place before the ambulance can begin operating. Deena Glover, a key organizer of the new ambulance service, said that process has been completed.
In other business, Katy Wells of the Middlebourne EMS said there is now an ambulance being staged in Alma. She hopes to train more people in the area for EMT responses. The commissioners were pleased to hear that there is extra support in that area of the county. Wells is also interested in any vehicle that the sheriff’s department could release as a response vehicle.
4-H, New Equipment, Taxes and More
Commissioner Stender mentioned that the 4-H grounds are continuing to improve. They are applying hydraulic cement to the dining room floor so that they can apply tiling in the future. They are going to purchase 32 tables and another 25 chairs to replace some of the older furniture. Stender intends on getting the grounds to the point where they can be open year round.
During the sheriff’s report, it was stated that there is a major drug problem in our area and the Sheriff’s Department has been borrowing equipment from a neighboring county. The sheriff’s department would like to purchase their own equipment, but wanted to go into executive decision to further discuss the unnamed piece of equipment in privacy with the commissioners. The total cost for the equipment will be just under $5,000 dollars and will require a yearly service agreement of $720 dollars which includes a software license agreement.
Josh Fulks, director of the 911 Center, said a dispatcher has resigned. During Fulks’ report, he said Doddridge and Richie Counties have contacted him in regards to a tower located at five points. The surrounding counties would like to add an additional 80 feet to the already existing 1,400 foot tower. It could be a great help to emergency services such as law enforcement, OEM, ambulances, fire trucks, and other emergency service vehicles. The cost will be approximately $150,000 to finalize and the surrounding counties are also to contribute to the final cost, Fulks said.
Tom Cooper, director of Tyler County Office of Emergency Management, said he finished the 2016 West Virginia EMPG grant which requests reimbursement for last years expenses. He is requesting $77,000 but usually receives only half that amount. However, since the OEM offers support outside of our county, it may be eligible for more funding.
There was a motion passed to add another signature to the county clerk bank account for Andy Glover to sign in the absence of the county clerk.
Jo Anna Graft confronted the commissioners over a tax bill that she has received from the State of West Virginia. The state claims that it is a county related issue, but the commissioners told her otherwise. She was advised that the commissioners set the levy rates but as far as mineral rights, it is a state issue. She feels that she is being double taxed. She was advised that the issue would have to be resolved through the State Tax Board and the Board of Equalization.
The next meeting for the Board of Equalization will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 1.