By Jean A. Flanagan
Hardy County Commissioner A. J. Wade called for the immediate resignation of Commissioners William “JR” Keplinger and J. Michael Teets at the meeting of the County Commissioner held Tuesday, Sept. 16.
“Commissioner Teets often speaks of making good decisions and doing what is best for the people of Hardy County,” Wade said in a prepared statement. “He probably believes the decisions made and actions taken by himself and Commissioner Keplinger are good for the county. I disagree.”
Wade went on to say if Teets and Keplinger resigned, there would be three new commissioners come January.
“We’ve lost the trust of the people,” he said. “There is a huge credibility gap between this commission and the citizens of the county which will only be closed when we have new commissioners.”
Wade was referring to the debacle that has come as the result of the commission’s handling of the emergency ambulance issue in the county. The commission voted to impose an ambulance fee and purchase a building in Baker to house the ambulance authority. Wade voted against both measures.
[private] A group of citizens petitioned the court to remove Teets and Keplinger from office and nullify the fee and the purchase of the building.
A three-judge panel ruled there were no grounds to remove the commissioners. But, Senior Status Judge Andrew Frye Jr.
ruled the fee and building purchase are void and the funds collected by the commission must be returned to the citizens of Hardy County.
“If the people in this county have never known what Commissioner Wade has done, he has continued to create animosity,”
Keplinger fired back. “You try to find the most qualified to run (for county commission). I grew up in this area, went to school, and have owned my own business for 20 years. You would think someone of his caliber, you would expect more respect.
“He doesn’t let things go and he causes more problems. I hate that he acts like this. I like to be more positive.”
Keplinger said it was Wade who first suggested an ambulance authority. “I feel comfortable about how we made the decisions we did. I wish he would understand what our purpose is; to help the citizens.
Several members of the audience praised Wade for his suggestion. “I am very proud of you and I support you 100 percent,” said Bonnie Haggerty.
Judge Frye has scheduled a hearing on Monday, Sept. 29 to hear reasons why the commissioners have not returned the money, whether the purchase of the building and the fee can be resolved by a procedural vote in the commission and whether the petitioners should be awarded attorney’s fees.
Randolph County Jail Bill
Hardy County Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See presented an order from a Randolph County judge requiring Hardy County to pay $11,078.95. According to See, a defendant was sent to Randolph County to participate in the Drug Court there. He then violated the terms of his probation and was incarcerated in the regional jail. “He sat in jail for 8 months before he was sent back here,” See said.
“Could you ask Judge Parsons to talk with the Randolph County judge?” Keplinger asked.
“Tell him we don’t feel it is our responsibility,” Teets said. See agreed to do so.
Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority President Greg Greenwalt asked the commission to provide funds for the Authority.
“Pretty soon our funding will be exhausted,” Greenwalt said.
“We’re bringing it to your attention that we will need a funding source. We provided a budget and I can provide an update at the next meeting.
Keplinger moved the commission provide funding for the HCEAA.
Wade said Judge Frye’s injunction prevents any action until the hearing on Sept. 29.
Keplinger and Teets’ attorney Bridget Cohee said the judge’s order prevents the commission from discussing the emergency ambulance fee and the Baker building.
“There is no prohibition in the order from providing funds from the General Fund,” she said
Wade seconded the motion for the purpose of discussion.
Keplinger and Teets voted yes, while Wade voted no.
Cohee approached the commission with a motion to be filed in circuit court to add Capon Valley Bank and trustee Jack Walters as parties to the court proceedings.
Capon Valley Bank foreclosed on the Baker building and it was sold at a legal and legitimate foreclosure sale. The HCEAA was the high bidder. Since Judge Frye has voided the sale of the building, Cohee said the bank will not voluntarily return the funds the county paid.
“The judge will make a decision if the purchase vote can be corrected by another vote,” Cohee said.
“If not, there is no way for Capon Valley Bank to return the funds.” Keplinger and Teets voted yes, while Wade voted no.
•The payroll register for Aug. 17 – 31 was $65,272.36.
•The payroll register for Sept. 1 – 15 was $65,515.62.
•The county’s contribution to the Farmland Protection Board for August was $9,716.30.
•The regional jail bill for August was $37,393.75.
•The commission approved funding for a dumpster to keep critters out of the trash. The dumpster will cost $139 per month,
which will come from the Coal Severance fund.
•The commission approved funding to rebuild a lift station for the courthouse sewer system. The cost is $1,786.47.
•The commission approved $3,307 for a new phone system for the WVU Extension office. The commission also approved time
and material for painting of the WVU Extension office. The office is moving from the courthouse to the old 911 Center.
•The commission approved a motion to hold a hearing on a will in solemn form because the will presented was a copy and not an original. The hearing will be held on Oct. 7 at 9 a.m.
•The commission approved a resolution to apply for a grant to pay for a new roof on the shingled part of the courthouse. There will be a 20 percent match from the county required.
•The commission approved the reappointment of Derek Barr, Roy Harper and Peyton Umstot to the Hardy County Rural Development Authority Board.
•The commission received a letter from Alex Sanatana resigning from the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority.
•The commission has been asked to attend a meeting hosted by the National Resource Conser- vation Service. The meeting is to discuss the progress on the Lost River Dam #16. The meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 20 from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren, on the corner of Winchester Avenue and Clay Street.
The next meeting of the Hardy County Commission will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 7 beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda should contact the County Clerk’s office at 304- 530-0250.