By Jean A. Flanagan
The Hardy County Commission voted Tuesday to oppose two pieces of legislation being considered by the West Virginia Legislature.
The commission met on Wednesday, March 8.
Senate Bill 226 changes the disposition of money and sale of property in forfeiture cases from law enforcement to the treasurer of the state.
“We used forfeiture money to fund housing for the Hardy County Drug Task Force,” said Sheriff Bryan Ward.
The commission also voted to oppose House Bill 2605, which would authorize the West Virginia Public Service Commission to combine state 911 Centers. The legislation instructs the WV PSC to present a plan to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2018 to consolidate into no fewer than three and no more than six centers. The plan would be implemented within four years.
“I understand this bill is dead, but we should still oppose it in case it comes back,” said Hardy County Office of Emergency Management and 911 Center Director Paul Lewis.
[private] County Commission President Harold Michael, a former member of the House of Delegates said, “Nothing is dead until three or four days after the legislature adjourns.”
The beginning of March signals the beginning of work on the county’s budget for the next fiscal year. So begins the parade of organizations seeking county funding.
Ronnie Miller and George Leatherman, Potomac Valley Conservation District Supervisors appeared before the commission to request continued funding for maintenance and operation of the county’s eight flood control dams.
In years past, the county has contributed $1,000 per dam toward the county’s eight dams.
“We’ve seen in the southern part of the state the importance of flood control dams,” Miller said.
Last year several counties in the south-central part of the state flooded, resulting in the deaths of five people and the loss of millions of dollars in property.
Will Runion, chair of the Hardy County Chamber of Commerce Retail Committee request assistance with the Chamber’s two “Shop Local” programs.
The Chamber sponsors the Shop Local programs in the summer and before Christmas. They encourage people to buy from local merchants.
“It’s a small effort by the chamber to support local businesses,” Runion said. “Shop local efforts are necessary and if you support us, we can make it bigger and better.”
Cary Ours, director of the South Branch Valley Day Report Center, requested the commissioners approve and sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Hardy, Hampshire and Pendleton counties to facilitate the Day Report program.
As members of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, the three counties participate in the SBV Day Report Program.
Ours also remarked Hardy County’s match to the funding grant hasn’t changed since 2011. It has remained at $17,666 per year.
“Our staff has increased and participation has increased,” Ours said. “While Hampshire County has the most participants, Pendleton County commits the same amount with only 10 percent of the participation.”
Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger asked about the SBV Day Report program’s success rate.
Ours said 70 percent of the participants complete the program. “The national average is about 40 percent,” she said.
Keplinger wanted to know how many of the the participants who complete the program go on to commit more criminal activity. Ours could not provide that information.
Michael said he wanted to increase the Hardy County contribution. “The jail bill was $50,000 in January,” he said. “Without the Day Report Center it would be more.”
Keplinger said he wanted to wait to see what the budget would allow. He moved the commissioners sign the agreement and keep the contribution the same.
Commissioners Keplinger and David “Jay” Fansler voted in favor of the motion. Michael voted against the motion. “I want to increase the amount,” he said.
Attorney Fees Settlement
County Coordinator Rose Helmick presented documentation from the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool settlement regarding attorney fees associated with the ambulance fee lawsuit.
Initially, the insurance company paid only for the defense of the removal from office portion of the lawsuit. The County Commission, Commissioners Keplinger and J. Michael Teets were responsible for their defense in the other matters, according to Senior Status Judge Andrew Frye Jr.
Tucker County attorney John Cooper, who was appointed to defend the county commission, petitioned the court to overturn that decision. The WVCo. Risk Pool negotiated a settlement of $125,000 for the county and each of the defendants.
According to County Clerk Gregg Ely, there was one outstanding bill from Steptoe & Johnson, the firm who initially represented the county, Teets and Keplinger. When Cooper took his fee and the last Steptoe & Johnson invoice was paid, the remainder is $90,719.39.
The commissioners voted to accept the settlement and return the money to the general fund.
Deputy J.T. Miller of the Hardy County Sheriff’s Department opened bids for ballistic equipment to be purchased with a Homeland Security grant.
Officers Only, an online security equipment supplier, will provide 10 vests, 10 helmets and 13 shields for a total cost of $34,994.80.
PT Armor, of Fairfax, Va., bid on the vests and helmets, but not on the shields, so their bid was incomplete.
The commission voted to approve the bid from Officers Only.
Paul Lewis, director of the Office of Emergency Management and 911 Center said as soon as the power was connected at the new communications tower outside Wardensville, the tower would be operational. “It seems that Potomac Edison lost the work order, so I had to file a new one,” he said.
He hopes to have the tower operational by the end of March.
High winds caused damage to some of the State Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) system equipment recently. “There was a problem with the path between Helmick Rocks and Charlie’s Knob after the high winds went through,” Lewis said.
In addition to trying to consolidate the individual county 911 centers, Lewis said the legislature was considering funding the 911 centers through electric lines instead of telephone land lines.
“There are 10,000 electric meters in Hardy County as opposed to 6,000 land lines,” Lewis said. “Everybody is getting rid of their land lines.”
A percentage of every telephone land line fee go to fund the 911 centers.
Calls for service were virtually the same as the previous month. In January there were 651 total calls for service. In February the calls totaled 643. They were as follows:
Moorefield Police Department had 298 calls.
Hardy County Sheriff’s Department had 215 calls.
West Virginia State Police had 40 calls.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources had 10 calls.
•Includes traffic stops.
Emergency Medical Services
Fraley Ambulance Service had 91 calls.
Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority had 41 calls.
Wardensville Volunteer Rescue Squad had 17 calls.
Moorefield Volunteer Fire Department had 24 calls.
Mathias/Baker Volunteer Fire Department had 8 calls.
Capon Valley Volunteer Fire Department had 5 calls.
•The payroll register for Feb. 1 – 15 was $65,779.95.
•The payroll register for Feb. 16 – 28 was $65,946.53.
•Hardy County’s contribution to the Farmland Preservation Fund in February was $6,532.90.
•The regional jail bill for January was $50,885.50.
•The commission approved a request to lease ventilating equipment to Grant County. The equipment was part of the purchase of the Baker EMS building and has never been used.
•The commission approved an inspection contract for Central Elevator. The $170 contract is to inspect the courthouse elevator.
•The commission approved the hiring of an engineer to inspect and write the specifications for electrical work on the courthouse. A grant from the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities fund provides $6,000 for such a person.
The next meeting of the Hardy County Commission will be held on Tuesday, April 4 beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda should call the County Clerk’s office at 304-530-0250. [/private]