January 10, 2002
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COUNTY SUED AGAIN
SAM'S ASKS FOR AMBULANCE AUDIT
DID YOU KNOW
NEW YEAR FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
CAEZ NON MEETING MEETING
BOIL IT .... OVER
MAYORS, PUTERS AND HARD FEELINGS AT TOWN MEETING
COUNTY COMMISSION UPDATE
LEVY OR NOT
AMBULANCE SERVICE UPDATE
COUNTY SUED AGAIN
Is it ever quiet in Clay County? Is there ever a time when county government runs smooth? Can the county make it more than 6 months without getting involved in a lawsuit of some kind or another? Probably not.
Commissioner Tim Butcher, Matthew Bragg and Jimmy Sams along with 911 Coordinator Paige Willis and Clay County Emergency Ambulance Authority (CCEAA) members Bob Ore, Fran King, Arlie Fulks, Larry Cole and Gene King were all served court summons during the week of January 2, 2002 by Bob Mullins. At issue is the funding of the Ambulance Service in the county, keeping both the Big Otter and the Lizemores Satellite Sub Stations open as well as keeping dispatching service within the county.
The plaintiffs, unnamed (et al), have provided the following information dated January 2, 2002, according to Courthouse records:...want to take a class action/civil complaint against CCC, CCEAA and 911 Director Paige Willis, on behalf of myself and the citizens of Clay County. Consisting of said Commissioners with Jimmy Sams, Paige Willis, and other associates on the CCEAA board, all above appointed of said commission. Stop and halt action taken against Clay County Ambulance Service Station 200 and Station 300, as well as Station 300. Reason being apparent maleficent of the above mentioned county office holders. Doing their jobs with no concern of the health and safety of citizens of the Clay County. Satellite station 300 and 200 has volunteers to man them with no expense to the CCEAA for Station 300. Further more with the Clay County Commission not upholding their financial obligation at the ambulance service in general have assisted initially in the demise of the Clay County Ambulance Service. Also, the Clay County Commission=s desire to put all other County entities or organizations above the needs of Clay County=s life and health.
Attached are copies of legal documents to prove the above statements. We contend that Comm. Jimmy Sams being appointed himself a member of the CCEAA board, is a conflict of interest and is typical of the County Commission.
As of today I am asking the ambulances be take back or left to Stations 300 and 200 for the volunteers to use to serve said communities of Southern and Northern Clay County.
The legal documents referred to in the paperwork is a resolution motioned and passed by the CCEAA June 8, 1998 which reads: The Clay County Emergency Ambulance Authority will run the Clay County Ambulance Service Lower 16 Satellite Station at Lizemore as long as it self supporting. If it is not self supporting, the County Commission will reimburse the Clay County Emergency Ambulance Authority for expenditures.
This resolution was signed by CCEAA Chair Loretta Bird. Curiously enough below Ms Bird=s signature are the signatures of County Commissioners James Sams and Ronald Haynes.
The only named plaintiff on the paperwork was Joyce White of Bomont West Virginia. Ms White served on the Ambulance Authority for six years until not being reappointed by County Commission (CCC) July 1, 2001. It appears that the plaintiffs are alleging that county dollars have not been properly applied to the Ambulance Service operation as well as the County Commissions giving budget priorities to other agencies in the county. Interestingly enough, while on the Authority, Ms White voted to give illegal Christmas bonuses one year, made the motion to give $12,000.00+ in Christmas bonuses another year, and last year, in June, did the behind the scenes leg work ( without a public vote) to secure a $100,000.00 loan at 9% interest for the Ambulance Service.
In addition to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have asked for an immediate injunction against 911 Director Paige Willis, the CCC, and the CCEAA reading in part....stop and halt action taken against Clay County Ambulance Service Station 200 and Station 300 as well as Station 100. Also, stop the removal of communications equipment by Director Paige Willis.
During the recent financial crunch at the Ambulance Service, the CCEAA voted to stop local dispatching and instead rely on the taxpayer funded 911 center in Nicholas County for the service thus eliminating a duplication of service.
|According to Commissioner Tim Butcher a hearing has been set on the injunction for January 22 at 3:45 pm with Judge Jack Alsop on the bench. Prosecutor Jeff Davis will represent the County Commission and the Authority.
SAMS ASKS FOR AMBULANCE AUDIT
Clay County Commission Meeting 12/27/01
Clay County Commissioners Matthew Bragg, Jimmy Sams, and Tim Butcher met for the second of their twice monthly regular meetings on Friday, December 28, due to the holidays. Bragg called the meeting to order, offered prayer, and the Commission quickly dispensed with the routine business - approving erroneous assessments, bills and purchase orders, budget revisions, final estate settlements, probating of wills, and previous meeting minutes. All motions passed unanimously.
Jimmy Sams then gave his fellow commissioners a brief update on the financial condition of the Clay County Emergency Ambulance Authority (CCEAA).
Sams, A...tried to make cuts...all overtime was cut. They=re working 40 hours. The two out lying stations, the ambulances have been parked...using their supplies, which will save a little. They=re running on three now. Dispatchers are partly volunteer right now. After January 10, no dispatchers. Dave King will do non-emergency transports. There=s about $9000 in the budget, with payroll soon. We need an audit, but there=s no money to do it. I=d like to use money from coal severance to do an audit. That all right with you guys?@
Bragg and Butcher asked if it would be a full audit and how far back would it go. Sams said a full audit, and County Clerk Judy Moore said the last audit was done in 1999, so it would go back two years. She also said coal severance money could be used to pay for the audit. Commission voted to do so and Sams said he would call the state auditor=s office and try to get someone to do it soon.
E-911 Coordinator Paige Willis told the Commissioners that by January 10 they (ambulance service) need to decide what to do and how 911 will handle it. He stressed that they need to go through the chain of command, and said he=d talk to Cookie (Johnson - ambulance director) about it.
Willis, AHopefully, we=ll get back on keel.@ Sams said he thought that the ambulance service had billed $63,000 last month. Willis, AThey should give figures of what they think they=ll collect instead of what was billed.@
Dave Foster from the Public Service Commission was present through out the meeting. He asked if anyone was there from Pumpkin Ridge with any questions. He explained that he thought the engineer for the Amma water project, Jim Hilldreth, was to be at the meeting. Foster said the engineer was going to find out if Pumpkin Ridge could be included in the Amma project, but felt it was a long shot as plans for that project are about done. He told the Commissioners they need to put Pumpkin Ridge somewhere on the list (of areas needing water), and encouraged them to keep applying for money and to make phone calls to project engineers about including Pumpkin Ridge in existing projects. Foster, A They (people) want to know you=re working on it...Call project engineers, district board members...just a phone call from you, as County Commission member, goes a long way - knowing you=re interested. Work on funding. Once you=ve got the money the rest is easy.@
Butcher noted that the Lizemore and Tucker Bottom projects were funded, and they have a foot in the door for funding the Nebo water project. He said as far as he was concerned Pumpkin Ridge was next on the list.
|The Commission continued this session to January 2, 2002, to organize for the new year. Meeting lasted about 30 minutes.
Rhonda Dennis stepped up to the plate November 15, 2001 and raised concerns over the dealings at Maysel Manor/Anderson Heights, a federally funded project for low income residents. Linda Hanshaw was the resident manager for Encore Management of Charleston which operates the facility for Clay Mountain Housing. Hanshaw=s supervisor was Wanda Vickers. The main issues raised by Ms Hanshaw included controversial uneven politics, changes in lease agreements, low occupancy rates, rent increases, and favoritism of some of the residents. A petition had been signed by many of the tenants seeking change. During the course of the article and after speaking with Ms Vickers, this paper can comment in a first hand way on the rude action, less than professional attitude, and arrogance of Wanda Vickers as well as that of her employer, Encore Management.
In the way of a follow up, seems a head has rolled. Ms Dennis now reports to us that Linda Hanshaw is no longer with Maysel Manor and Ms Vickers is managing the facility until a replacement can be hired. Hmmmm.... of course our beef was with Ms Vickers. Seems the underlings always take the beatings
In early December we reported that the Wilderness Café has pulled up stakes and closed it=s doors after being shut down for two weeks or so. Owner Chris Jones later told us , and we reported, that was not the case and that she was open for business. Ms Jones has now made public that she has gone out of business and the local eatery is formally closed down.
??? DID YOU KNOW ???
1. Some of our principal regrets in life are the opportunities we pass up and the chances we don=t take.
2. You are a wise man today if you have learned from yesterday=s blunders.
3. Researchers say polyphenols in red wine are the reason the French can eat the way they do and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4. Over all, drug use among America=s teenagers has remained level or declined for the fifth year in a row.
5. The Rockefellers have given West Virginia University $15 million to study memory and brain research.
6. 90% of lung diseases in the state are caused by smoking.
7. Estimates are that the state will loose about 20 to 70 million dollars on sales and use taxes this year due to internet shopping.
8. An estimated 4 million children are taking Ritalin today.
9. 8 million American women have osteoporosis.
10. West Virginia loggers are cutting twice as many trees as seven years ago.
11. 65 earthquakes in 2001 have killed more than 21,000 people.
12. A three cent postage rate hike could occur as early as June 30 this year.
13. Consumers and corporations using Microsoft Corporation=s new Windows XP software are being warned by the FBI to take added steps against hackers who might try to take advantage of major flaws.
14. AIDS has killed 22 million people.
15. The government is working with the states to develop a new generation of driver=s license that could be checked anywhere, and would contain electronically controlled information such as fingerprints.
16. There are over 60 different species of kangaroos.
17. Nearly half of West Virginia=s hospitals ended the year 2000 with deficits.
18. For every 1000 licensed 16 year old girls, 175 had a car accident in 2000.
19. Certain studies have linked detectable disorders at birth to at least 5% of all Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths.
20. The number of patients who used anti-depressant medication climbed from 37% to nearly 75% between 1987 to 1997.
To the Editor:
I am concerned about the smoke in the Bingo Hall on Monday nights. It has gotten so bad that you can not see, literally. If you mention something about it, they ignore you. They won't even turn on the fans to try and circulate the air. The last time that I attended bingo was on New Years Eve. The smoke was so unpleasant that my eyes watered the entire time. Now, if I were to go to Rite Aid or Gino's and smoke, do you think I would get in trouble? Absolutely! I don't care who the building belongs to, every citizen should abide by the same laws. If they continue to say it is because the Lions Club building is privately owned, then they do not need to have it open to the public.
I have been reading about the problems with the Ambulance Authority. Evidently, you have not heard about Mason County. I am Squad Chief of the New Haven EMS, Inc., which was chartered and incorporated in 1971 as a volunteer, non-profit corporation, that had been providing service to our community until July 15. 1999 when the Mason County Commission, along with the Mason County Ambulance Service Authority, shut our corporation down. They filed suit trying to take our assets from us, but we fought them back.
During the Mason County Commission meeting 07/15/99, without prior notification to New Haven EMS, Inc., (it was reported) in the local paper on 07/16/99, front page, that the New Haven EMS had been shut down due to (1.) three complaints, (2.) the 911 Director estimated we did not make 50% of runs, and (3.) would not join the Ambulance Authority. A county employee rumored that a state EMS person also complained, and that would not surprise me at all because of certain ties with an individual in Mason County. The County stopped $3000 per year allotment, insurance, no medical director and the County told 911 not to dispatch New Haven EMS. I found out about the insurance when I called the EMS Region office to get our new 1999 ambulance inspected and was told to check with the County, so it seems he also knew before New Haven EMS, Inc. We were told to turn over all our assets as soon as possible without further embarrassment. The County filed suit to take our assets. Our attorney from Huntington said to continue our daily business as usual. Then the County pad locked the county building not allowing us to do our daily business. We went to court to get access to remove the ambulances. We were not allowed to take all of the assets. We were allowed to take the ambulances, which were titled and licensed to New Haven EMS, Inc., and store them in a private building, but the County still kept the private building locked. We also put locks on the building. We were allowed to service the ambulances two times a month, but with supervision from the County, and(the) assistant 911 director was present. At one time the judge ordered New Haven EMS, Inc. to turn over the ambulances so they could be used. We did, but we filed to the Supreme Court and they ruled 5-0 the ambulances be returned to New Haven EMS, Inc. immediately, but it took another court hearing and one month for the County to return them.
The Ambulance Authority Board was hand picked, but there were two individuals who worked very hard researching and setting up guidelines. As squad chief and squad board member (I) attended these meetings and they actually never went anywhere. The reason New Haven EMS, Inc. never agreed to join the Ambulance Authority was that they never had anything in writing to make a decision. They would always say Awe can work things out down the road@. The two individuals suggested that they contract New Haven so they could continue to serve their area which includes 2 power plants, 1 industry and other businesses. Our response time was excellent, unlike now with no coverage at all and waiting 20 - 45 minutes. The President of the Mason County Commission, as a representative with the Authority Board, said no they would not allow another private entity to run in Mason County. This statement has been made in our court hearings, county commission meetings, and to others. The two individuals were then removed from the (Authority) board, and they reorganized a new board with who they wanted on their side. We have 1997, 1999 Road Rescue Supermedics which were paid for in cash with no help from the county. Our court proceedings came to a halt when the County Commission decided to call it quits and agreed that New Haven EMS, Inc. could keep their assets. The present prosecuting attorney told the Commissioners that they could not win the case, this statement was stated in front of the Judge. Think about it, with estimates that New Haven was just making 50% of their runs, how could we have spent over $200,000 for these ambulances? Plain and simple, just good MANAGEMENT!!! New Haven EMS, Inc. had four volunteer squads and one paid. You decide where the problem started. But there was one other volunteer squad that did not join the Authority and they still were allowed to continue to run and did not turn their assets over until approximately 18 months after New Haven EMS was shut down. There is more to this story than one could imagine!!! The County Commission still will not allow our EMS to run.
12/24/01: Bailey - Andy N. Moore, wanton endangerment with firearm, arrested, ROB, hearing set.
01/02/02: Delk - Douglas Lee Bottenfield, (09/05/01) setting fire to personal property, probable cause found - bound to Grand Jury in Clay Circuit Court.
01/03/02: Delk - Marina Lanham, (12/19/01) possession/intent to deliver controlled substance, defense motion to continue to 01/15/02; Bailey - Jonathan D. Cook, (12/24/01) aggravated/non-aggravated robbery, preliminary hearing continued to ??.
12/02/01: Rider - Michael S. Williamson, speeding, request to contest citation.
12/21/01: Foreman - Kevin R. Johnson, possession less 15 gms. marijuana, ROB, defendant pled guilty 12/28, placed on 6 months unsupervised probation.
12/27/01: Belt - James F. Smith, speeding, ROB.
12/28/01: Slack - Crystal Thorne, warrants issued for assault and trespassing.
01/02/02: Teresa Morton, Agent Clay Health Dept., - Ray Nottingham, Walter Schoonover, Regina Carpenter, all for sanitation violations.
01/03/02: Slack - Elizabeth Catts, battery, no probable cause found; Slack - Terrisa Sheridan, domestic battery, arrested, ROB.
01/04/02: Big Otter Food Mart - warrants issued for Alicia Schindler X 3, Brandy Nichols, Wanda K. Church, all for worthless checks; IGA - Stacy James, warrant issued for worthless check.
01/02/02: Amanda Morris - Delbert and Jackie Barker, wrongful occupation.
01/03/02: Sheila and Wendy Jarrett - Pam Montgomery, wrongful occupation, order of possession granted.
01/04/02: Clay Super Market - Diana E. Goodwin $140.51 and $100.00, Reti H. Bartlett $36.22 and $36.13, Tonya R. Sayre $75.90, Teresa Cook $24.78, notices issued.
12/01/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Van R. Jenkins III, speeding.
12/02/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Kimberly M. Hollie, speeding; Michael Williamson, speeding.
12/03/01: State Police - Daniel G. Mullins, possession of marijuana.
12/06/01: State Police - Bufford l. Brown, consumption on premises.
12/08/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Sherri Bullard, driving suspended and registration violations.
12/10/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Donald Thomas Miles, speeding.
12/11/01: State Police - Timothy Miller, no POI; Sheriff=s Dept. - Rachel L. Rhodes, following too close.
12/14/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Jerry Cash, operator=s.
12/16/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Eric J. Nottingham, failure to keep right and no POI; State Police - Mary E. Stutler, seat belt violation.
12/20.01: Sheriff=s Dept. - John F. Johnson, speeding, no POI, passing on double yellow line, and registration violations; Francis Ann Stump, operator=s and no POI.
12/21/01: State Police - Kevin R. Johnson, possession less than 15 gms marijuana and defective equipment.
12/22/01: State Police - Amanda J. Brown, reckless driving.
12/28/01: State Police - Lisa G. Holcomb, operator=s and registration violations.
12/31/01: Sheriff=s Dept. - Bradley S. Balser, speeding.
Norman Jones is married, a tax payer, a life long resident of Clay County, works for the WV Turnpike Commission and has 5 children. His wife works at Tudors in Gauley Bridge. Mr. Jones lives in the area called Rock Camp which is right on the county line in the Southern tip of the county.
Jones has raised serious safety issues over the school system=s activity bus and to date, has received no satisfaction despite repeated attempts to get the situation corrected. The issue is over where the activity bus turns around. The bus backs onto the busy Bell Creek road , on a bridge, and in a blind curve to boot!
He has requested a safer place be found for the bus to turn around and has made that request formally to Superintendent Linkinogger and Bus Czar Larry Legg. After repeated meetings he most recently was told: Mr. Legg looked the situation over and because the girl walked across the road and waited at a neighbors house (after being dropped off by the bus driver) for a parent to take her on home, Athat was sufficient enough.@ Jones feels that the administration paid little attention to this safety issue and that there may be other parents receiving similar treatment, Jones,@ I am very disappointed at the way our elected officials conduct themselves. I am concerned about my child=s safety and other children=s safety too. Seems that problems are brought on a deaf ear!@
Jones,@ One wonders why our bus insurance is so high.. They continuously try to persuade you and say the levy pays for activities and the activity buses. But in my opinion, you get the run around, you don=t get your money=s worth with the levy. I feel that I=m not alone thinking you get the short end of the stick on the excess levy. I=d like the voters to ask, what have you gotten out of it?
Norman believes strongly in voting and has encouraged his children to exercise their right to vote. @Even my son is concerned about how money is dealt with in this county. Don=t take a back seat to things going on in the county.... Let the county know how you feel, Vote!@
|As for solving the activity bus safety issue, Mr. Jones,@ ...it=s a genuine safety issue. If they would just go up where the regular bus turns... That=s the most logical thing to do. Why risk taking a chance with children=s safety? They are risking my children. Is that worth another mile to a safe area? There is no sound judgement being used here. None at all!@
|Norman Jones may be reached at email@example.com
New Year for Business Development
met in regular session January 3 at 5 pm. With a quorum in place topics included:
No update on status of locating a public rifle range in the county. Jim Knotts is in charge of that project.
As for the 5 month stagnant commercial appraisal of a possible industrial development site at Moore Fork in the Northern end of the county, not much to report. According to member Jerry Sizemore, the report was to be completed by December 31. BDA Chair Paige Willis, @..Five months is ridiculous!@ Lots of discussion but no decisions made to hurry up the property appraisal so the County can get in line for the upcoming spring Federal grant cycle.
As a follow up to last month=s discussion on the county not even having a contact number on the WV Development Office web site, BDA Secretary Steve Zaricki gave a report. After doing a little background work Mr. Z commented that the county needs to come up with some info before anything can be put on the nationally looked at site. Willis, @There=s nothing to put on it... Not much we can do for anybody in the shape we are in...@ Willis went on to explain that the county needs an industrial site before anything else and his efforts are concentrating on the Moore Fork plan now. Willis,@ If we can=t do one, we can=t do three or four.@
Kate Whitaker from the non profit group Aid for Family=s in Need (AFFIN) gave a presentation on their attempts to establish a forty acre facility for homeless, transitional, and permanent housing for the five county area. The shelter will accommodate 150 people when done. The housing, in partnership with Multi Cap, Clay Mt Housing, and others, will provide a 12 to 24 month program for women and children taken from violent home situations. She expects to employ 75 full timers and have 125 jobs in the training complex at the project. Whitaker is interested in locating at the Moore Fork site. To date AFFIN has received no grant monies for the project.
Community activist Fred Sampson handed out a copy of a letter he mailed to various State and Federal agencies seeking support for the long stalled B Run Dam project planned for the Wallback area of Clay County. That project was to be funded from Fola Coal Co. mitigation fund dollars way back in 1992. So far the state folks have nothing with either getting the damn built or forcing Fola to pay the mitigation fund for the damages done by strip mining.
The one hour meeting ended with little accomplished.
*During the upcoming WV Legislative session, it is expected that a proposal will be introduced to eliminate personal property tax on vehicles, etc. and increase taxes on land which would provide more dollars for education. Let=s see now.. if that happens, then all the county residents that live with friends or relatives or rent wouldn=t pay a penny for schools despite the fact that many of those families have kids in the school system.
*It hard to believe that there is a need to close a school if the levy fails January 19 since the school system began the current fiscal year with over $100,000.00 to the good.
*So, here=s the question. Can School Board member Gene King remain on the Board during his run for Sheriff in two years? If School Board member Dave Pierson ran for County Commission this time around, can he remain seated in the non partisan elected spot?
CAEZ NON MEETING MEETING
AThe Board is pretty upset@ - Red Derring
Central Appalachia Empowerment Zone (CAEZ) sort of had a meeting January 8, 2002. They could have held their monthly Board meeting if the Clay County delegation had shown up. With Linda Rhodes present, our wayward appointed reps on the Board absent included: Lynn O=Dell, Darlene Morris, Elizabeth Sampson, Wanda Chambers and and and new to the Board Clay County Commission Rep Matthew Bragg.
Financially, and unofficial and for the end of 2001: CAEZ had $1,979,017.00 in debts, and including the value of the Mt. Hope Industrial Park, cash on hand, receivables, had $4,689,84295. At this time last and including the Mt Hope Industrial Park, total assets were $ 511,667.00.
Even without a quorum, some committee reports were given. No movement on the CAEZ giving a $40,000.00 loan to buy the Clay High School modular home now setting on school property. Again, the finance committee, Chaired by Elizabeth Sampson, did not meet.
Something was up folks. Earlier in the day , the Economic Development Committee met. Most at this meeting were in attendance at the earlier meeting and the assembled were fuming. They were biting their lips to keep from saying the word FILCON. Red Derring was leading the charge with the 6 or so there right behind him. Both Derring and Doyle Tawney, at about the same time,@ Things need taken care of.@ Big discussion on when to call a special meeting, when to call an emergency meeting, Derring, AIt=s important things get addressed!@ Discussion turned to doing a telephone meeting where each Board member would be given a chance to vote on Ait@. Braxton=s John Gibson said there are actually two items that need attended to.
Gibson suggested that since this was an emergency, maybe they could do things differently. Director Jerry Sizemore said that action would be needed soon and,@ It is time critical..@ Sizemore felt the issues needed a special meeting and one where proper notice would be given to the members and the public. Back to just having a telephone meeting..... After several read the recently revised by laws, they realized telephone decisions were not allowed. Sizemore pointed out that he had always practiced doing things in the open and felt these decisions should be no different.
All this time, the identity of the two items were not made public. At one point Mr. Derring said he was holding back what he wanted to really say.
Finally, Pete Selich said the magic word..... FILCON. Selich, A Filcon could be done by Jerry.... They are in default....It=s already authorized..@ Sizemore,@ The Board authorized execution of the contract.... I want Board to hear it..... It=s an official activity.@
After much discussion , it appears that CAEZ will hold a special meeting January 11 at 2:00 pm.
OK. Here=s the way we=ve pieced the two issues together. One issue centers around $38,000.00 for a day care center at the Mt. Hope Park and new tenant there, Global Contact Services. That=s the issue that is time critical. There may be another issue with a loan to the Panther=s Den restaurant and finally, there=s Filcon Industries, Inc.
Here=s the one that Clay County may be more interested in. Filcon has not lived up to an agreement made in November with owner Manfred Kuentzer where Kuentzer was to pay just the interest on his long past due $140,000.00 CAEZ loan. Kuentzer agreed in early November 2001 to have the past due interest (over $2000) paid by December 4 and then make interest payments through January 2002 with full loan payments resuming February 1, 2002.
During the December 2001 CAEZ meeting Director Jerry Sizemore made the Board aware that Kuentzer came in that day and made the $2000+ payment by check. At that time, this reporter did not hear Sizemore inform the Board that there was a catch to the check. Kuentzer had asked Sizemore to hold the check until @funds could be transferred@.
Here=s what appears to have made Derring, Tawney and the others hot under the collar. The check is still being held!!
As the non meeting ended , Wilderness Café owner Chris Jones told the Board that references of a CAEZ loan to the Panther=s Den restaurant, that Arestaurant across the street@, had nothing to do with her, none of the previous owner=s equipment (loan security) is on the premises, and she has receipts for all her equipment. Ms Jones also told the Board that she had closed the business down and another person may soon reopen the eatery in February 2002.
|After the non meeting, Director Sizemore commented that he had every intention of approaching Mr. Kuentzer January 9, take the Filcon check over to the Clay County Bank, and if the bank did not honor the paper, take a few more steps over to the courthouse to begin legal action.
|It appears that Filcon has gone down the CAEZ financial leniency road about as far as he can!
BOIL IT... OVER
It=s been a while but, you ought not be drinking the water if you live in the town of Clay. A Boil Water Order (BWO) was issued January 8 in the middle of the afternoon. Complaints over something in the water came into County Sanitarian Teresa Morton=s office on Tuesday. After investigating the situation in the Pisquah area of the town, a BWO was issued by the town. Some reports came in on stuff resembling toilet paper in the water
Later in the day, Mayor Arthur Jarrett reported that he had collected three water samples from homes in that area and the water looked fine. Not even muddy or brown! Those collected samples were sent to the State Lab January 9 by mid day.
On January 9, State boys came to town and their inspection turned up brown water with some other floating, greasy, oozy stuff in the samples. Those samples will be checked out down in the Kanawha Valley as well. According to Town Clerk Dwana Murphy, it may take a few days to get the results back.
Around noon, January 10, Dwana Murphy reported that the BWO had been lifted after the Jarrett taken water samples came out OK based on lab results. No word yet on the results from the State Health Dept sampling action. Ms Murphy, ASince we enacted the BWO, we can remove it..@
MAYORS, >PUTERS, AND HARD FEELINGS AT TOWN MEETING
Clay Town Council met in regular session January 4 at the Town Hall/Water Plant on Main Street in Clay. Present: acting Mayor Betty Murphy, Council persons Wanda Chambers, Sally Legg, Dave Derby, Helen Morris, and Arthur Jarrett along with a bunch of folks in the peanut gallery ready for political warfare. They weren=t disappointed either! Here we go through another adventure into life as we know it in Clayberry
After minutes read blah blah blah.. Town clerk and acting meeting recorder Dwana Murphy informed Council that one of the office computers had blown it=s hard drive. The computer held check information and, @It=s a whole year=s worth of checks... all of them.... I have copies in check book.....I have never done a back up, I will now..@ On the back up issue, Ms Murphy was referring to storing the same >puter info on discs or on another >puter. Note: this is the computer that now resigned clerk Tammy Duffield used while an employee of the town.
As for the two month, on hold, special audit of the books brought on by allegations Aclear as black and white@ of financial misdoing, an update was given. According to acting Mayor Betty Murphy, the State Tax Dept. folks have told the Council to do their own audit (for the last two years) and the state folks will come in and do the Afraud@ part of the document. After bidding the work, Jim Teed and Associates will begin work next week on that part of the audit. Sally Legg,@ So nothing=s been done?@ Betty, A The State doesn=t get in any hurry..@
As for the long stalled town sewer rate increase,@The PSC has been dragging their feet.@ Murphy,@ We still don=t know@. Mayor Murphy was referring to the now 6 month old attempts to levy much higher sewer rates on town residents. Twice so far, the paperwork has been goofed up and the financially struggling, four year old sewer plant remains operating in the red. As for when the locals will have to cough up more to pay for the sewage plant, Murphy,@ We still don=t know.@
And now for the main feature, finding a mayor. Attempts last month to appoint a mayor went without success. At this meeting, Council person Arthur Jarrett was nominated as well as ex mayor Glennwood Nichols. Once again the Council was split on who they wanted with Helen Morris and Dave Derby on the short side and Sally Legg, Wanda Chambers and Betty Murphy on the other side of the fence. Once again acting Mayor ( elected Recorder ) Betty Murphy voted, assuring Jarrett the position of mayor. The hot button issue is whether Murphy can vote since she is acting mayor. Normally, mayors only vote to break a tie.
Dave Derby, AI have an objection.. You are the mayor..@ Uh oh. Murphy,@ I am the recorder.. You can=t take my vote!!!@ Murphy read a copy of the state code which stated that when the mayor is absent or there is a vacancy, the recorder just Aassumes@ that power and is not really the mayor. Hmmmmm.... Derby,@ You=d have to resign... You ARE the mayor.@ Murphy, now much louder and firmer,@ YOU ARE NOT TAKING MY VOTE!!!!!!!@ Derby,@ I=m not doing that.. the mayor has NO vote!@
Again Murphy read the code. Glen Nichols asked to speak - no deal.
The vote: For Jarrett-Murphy, Chambers, Legg; Against- Derby and Morris; For Glen Nichols-Derby and Morris; Against Nichols-Legg, Murphy, Chambers.
Morris to Murphy,@ You never listen Betty!@
Glen Nichols informed all that he had secured an attorney and that he intended to take Betty and Crew to court! Nichols was upset at Murphy voting during the appointments at both this meeting and the December 4 meeting where Nichols first lost out on the mayor position. Nichols contended that there is more in the State Code than what Ms Murphy was reading to the Council. The heated exchanges continued with Nichols saying something about Betty voting to break a tie vote in December 2001. Murphy,@ I DIDN=T VOTE TO BREAK A TIE THEN!!@ Blood pressure was soaring!!
Nichols also referred to Murphy having an interest in the vote and because of that , she should not be voting period. Oh, boy, that didn=t sit well with Murphy at all.
Here=s a cutey. Ms Murphy made mention that when Glen Nichols was first voted to be mayor by Council early last spring , it was her (Murphy) vote that put him in office, and that this vote was no different than back then. Murphy,@ GO BACK TO WHEN YOU WERE VOTED TO BE MAYOR THE FIRST TIME!!!@ Quiet for a split second, Murphy had landed one for her home team.
Nichols now much louder, WE=LL END UP IN COURT!@ Murphy,@ THAT=S WHAT COURTS ARE FOR!!!@ Hot times folks!!! The peanut gallery is sitting speechless and have their mouths gapping wide open.
Now pretty testy to say the least, Nichols warned Ms Murphy about taking her yearly pilgrimage to Florida for the winter. Murphy retorted that she would go anywhere she wanted to!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With Nichols starting to get personal with comments on all the illegal stuff he sees going on around town, Sally Legg came to life. Legg,@ YOU=RE OUT OF LINE GLEN.... THAT=S NOT TRUE... YOU=RE OUT OF LINE!!!!!!!@ With some encouraging the parties to simmer down, again Sally Legg,@ I DON=T CARE!!!@ Murphy again referring to when Nichols was on the winning side of an earlier mayor battle when Morgan Gibson was left out in the cold,@ It=s the same position as we have NOW!.... ARTHUR IS MAYOR!!!@
Is it over? Nope. With Arthur Jarrett now mayor his Council seat was open and needed filled. With sides still split, Wanda Chambers motioned to replace Jarrett with another ex mayor, Okey Burroughs. Not to be out done, Helen Morris motioned with Dave Derby seconding, the spot go to their candidate, Buckshot Butcher. Ditto for the vote count. Same as for mayor just minutes before with Burroughs winning out three to two.
As Betty Murphy was swearing in Jarrett as mayor, Helen Morris left the building.
|In just a matter of a few minutes it was over. Or maybe, just the beginning. As 2002 opens: the town again has a mayor, Town Council has a rift about a mile wide to deal with, there is a full blown fraud audit in progress over missing monies, the sewer plant that was suppose to pay for itself, continues to operate in the red, a possible lawsuit is beginning, the town is still engulfed in a big controversy over giving away a perfectly good water plant which makes money for the town, and well, welcome to Clayberry 2002 edition.
COUNTY COMMISSION UPDATE
It is new year Clay County. As required by state law, the Clay County Commission met January 2 to set up meeting dates and times for the upcoming year followed by a regular meeting on January 8. Here we go!
With Commissioners Bragg, Butcher and Sams in attendance, the election for County Commission President went quick. Matthew Bragg remains as president. Ditto for meeting times, County Commission will continue holding their public meetings the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 10 am. No discussion was held on having evening meetings so working members of the community could attend.
Dates were set for the February Board of Equalization. Those dates will be published in this paper later in January. County Commission is required by law to set meeting times when the public can come and seek reductions in their tax burdens. No provisions were made for a night time meeting of the Board.
After doing just a smashing good job as CAEZ rep, Commissioner Jimmy ( No Show) Sams asked Matthew Bragg if he would sit on that board. Bragg is the new CAEZ rep.
Normally the January 2 meeting is brief and cut and dry. Not so this time around. The meeting area was packed with county residents wanting to know about the future of the ambulance service in the county. Tim Butcher commented that he had talked to EMS Chief, BJ Willis about reopening the Big Otter and Lizemores Ambulance Stations. According to Butcher, Willis wants to see facts and figures before making any decisions as to the reopening. ABJ said he needs numbers...@ Much of the peanut gallery were supporters of the Big Otter station. Darius Arnold and others contended that there is no expense to the county since that community was covering the costs associated with the station and that in fact, it could be a money maker for the county. After much discussion, Butcher reminded all what Willis had said before a decision could be made. Sams explained that using volunteers for driving the ambulances is great but,@ You just pick up someone at Go Mart..@
Butcher also commented that Aquality of care@ was not an issue in the on going investigation of the Ambulance Service by state officials.
Much discussion on all the fund raising activities at the Big Otter station. The attention turned to all the Afree taxi cab@ service allotted to Laurel Nursing Home over the years. Patty Mollohan explained that Laurel has their own van and could do their own non emergency transports to doctor=s offices and that General Ambulance Service is already doing some of the paying runs.
During the discussion, Big Otter area resident James A. Duffield commented that he would pay $25.00 per month, every month, if they could get the Big Otter Station open again. Darius Arnold made a similar promise.
After 50 minutes of testimony, the meeting ended
Don=t stop reading now, it gets better!!!
County Commission held their regular session January 8 at 10 am. Well kind of, the 15 minute meeting did not start until Astick in the snow@ Matthew Bragg arrived at 11 am. 20 or so sat in the peanut gallery chatting and waiting. Here=s one to note, ex Commissioner Ronnie Haynes was in attendance which fueled speculation that Haynes may again make a run for the county position. Haynes would run against Tim Butcher in May of this year.
On the agenda was slated a past member of the Ambulance Authority, Jeanie Nottingham, as well as Bob Mullins. Neither showed on the snowy morning. During the hour long delay, Patty Mollahan, an EMT for the ambulance service, enlisted support for reopening the Big Otter Ambulance station.
The meeting finally got going after prayer by Darius Arnold. Ambulance Authority Chair Bob Ore reported on finances. According to Ore, the ambulance service has a little over $10,000.00 to their name and this week=s payroll is around $6,652.00. Translation: there=s not enough $ for another payroll. He also stated that in January 2001 the payroll for the service was $16,000.00 per pay period and the payroll has been cut tremendously since then. Ore,@ We=re OK for two weeks.@ Sams,@ It=s been cut about as much as you can with out shutting it down!@
The many supporters of the Big Otter station spoke up and gave many reasons for reopening that operation. Commission sounded receptive to the idea.
And then, and then.. Commissioner Bragg asked about the new lawsuit against the county over ambulance service. Bragg,@ What=s the Lizemore beef??.... Why are we being sued????..... I got served papers!@ With no real answers given, Commissioner Butcher made public that the first hearing on the lawsuit and the pending injunction will be held before Judge Jack Alsop January 22 at 3:45 pm.
|We=re off and running readers! The meeting ended at 11:15 am.
LEVY OR NOT?
As a regular attendee of school board meetings, I have been listening for years, yes literally years, to A thanks to the levy@ comments from school administrators. Just about everything that has been replaced, installed, or acquired during the five years the school excess levy has been in place has been attributed to it.
For the most part, I=ve no complaint with what has been done with this extra money Clay County tax payers have given the school system. Most importantly to me, the deficit the school system was forced to function with has been erased as promised. For two years now they have operated in the black. Five years ago the deficit, approaching $300,000, was the reason given for having to close schools, namely H.E. White Elementary in Bomont.
A little history here. H.E. White Elementary was to be closed in June 1997. The principal reason given at the time was a Clay County School District deficit of $-175,000 for 1996. This deficit was $-22,766 in 1992 and jumped to $-253,109 in 1993. The huge increase during this year was caused by, and I quote from the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) amendment 01/07/97, A...was due in large part to cuts in the county=s state aid budget as directed by the Governor of West Virginia (Caperton) in response to state budget shortfalls (budget crisis).@ At the time, I felt it was terribly unfair that H.E. White students were to be the ones punished with the loss of their school, and face exceptionally long transportation times, due to a state budget crisis that occurred years earlier. Clay was not alone. Eleven other rural counties were forced into deficit during this Abudget crisis@. Although aware of the financial difficulties these rural counties were faced with, the State Board of Education, under the push of then State Superintendent Hank Marockie to consolidate schools, offered no solution, and certainly no money. All Clay County students were affected as cuts had to be made throughout the school system.
The Clay County Board of Education at that time attempted to pass an excess levy, and failing that, moved to close another school. Dille, Brown and Nebo Elementary schools had already been closed in June 1991. The Board explained the closure was needed as they had to cut expenses, and H.E. White students would fit easily into Clay Elementary. An added incentive to closing H.E. White was the fact that the School Building Authority looked more favorably on projects which included school closures when they awarded money for school building renovations and improvements. And Clay Elementary desperately needed improvements.
Of course the residents of that area of the county strongly opposed the closure plan, including myself. I could see no benefits in the plan for the students of H.E. White. It looked to me as a desperate attempt to acquire much needed money as quickly as possible with little regard for the long term effect the closure would have not only on the students and community of the Bomont area, but on the Clay County School system itself.
The battle to keep that school open is another story. But the end result was proposing another excess levy to the tax payers of Clay County. I supported this as I could see no other way out for the financially strapped Board. My hope was this extra money would solve the immediate crisis, allowing our school board and administration to work without a deficit hanging over their heads as they planned for the future of our school system.
This second attempt to pass an excess levy also failed. The Bomont area, facing the continued threat of school closure, supported this levy. Ivydale area voters chose not to. The School Board quickly found a way to remedy that. At their very next meeting it was suggested and decided to try the levy again, and this time to include Ivydale Elementary in the closure plan. That would convince Ivydale voters to support the levy. Then Assistant Superintendent Jeff Krauklis was instructed to compose another closure plan, including Ivydale, for the Board to approve at their next meeting. That is how much planning went into a school closure plan by our School Board - less than five minutes. Not a plan, a threat. And sadly, it worked, although it did cost two board members their seats. Voters didn=t forget at election time.
My point? It is five years later. The deficit has been erased - in fact a surplus has been enjoyed by our present Board for two years. No doubt that makes their job, not to mention administration=s jobs, much easier. Improvements have been made at the schools. Surely you=ve read all about it, as the push to renew the excess levy has been ongoing. The improvements and benefits provided by excess levy monies are there to see. So why must this Board and its administration resort to the same tactics used five years ago - threats? Every presentation I=ve listened to, from every principal and administrator in the system extolling the wonderful things the levy has accomplished, ends ominously with Apossible closure@ of this or that school.
Superintendent Jerry Linkinogger repeatedly warns that if the excess levy fails he will recommend closure of the four rural area schools, with at least one to close this very year. Please note that he never specifies which school he would recommend first, or even suggests any vague sort of plan for all of this. Better to keep all voters wondering if it may be their school. The Board goes along with all this. Supposedly, they may be asked to close a school in a few short months, but there is no discussion on the possibility. When questioned about this, they, like Mr. Linkinogger, revert to the now routine Awe support the levy@ approach.
Months ago at Ivydale, I asked Mr. Linkinogger why he would need to close a school this year. The answer was that they=d have over $400,000 less a year to work with. No specifics or facts have been presented to justify hastily closing a school due to losing excess levy money. No plan has been provided on how future levy money will be used or for what, other than the vague statement Ato keep the rural schools open@.
Like many I=ve talked to, I=ve not yet decided. Levy or not? There are things I would like our school system to have, such as additional staff to assist our high school students plan for college and find the financial assistance most of them will need, and things I=d like to keep, such as adequate activity buses so students are able to participate in whatever they desire. I=d like to hear plans instead of threats. As I consider this upcoming excess levy election, I=m not going to be overly concerned with talk of school closure. There is no financial crisis facing this Board. Mr. Linkinogger may recommend all he wants. He will not be up for reelection in May. But Scott Legg, Fran King and David Pierson will be.
AMBULANCE SERVICE UPDATE: STILL ROLLING!
Lots can happen in a couple of weeks readers. Such is the case this time around. The last three weeks have been rocky to say the least for the county=s ambulance service. Layoffs, cutbacks, satellite station closures have all been reported in both the Charleston Gazette and this publication. State officials have entered the scene.
Bad finances are nothing new for the Ambulance Service. In the budget year 92-93 the service took in $148,638.02 and spent $204,440.63. In 1994 they received $136,926.30 but lost $61,673.10. In 1995 total income was $157,659.96 and going out was $205,706.43. That loss was over $48,000.00, ditto for >96, a loss of $24,630.82. During the 90's, with the exception of some lip service over illegal Christmas bonuses, little if any concern was raised by elected officials as the agency spent more than it took in. The only way the Clay County Ambulance Service remained afloat was with the mandated and stormy $25.00 ambulance service fee levied by the Clay County Commission. It now appears that the Clay County Commission has finally taken off their blinders and are openly trying to save the service. Some feel that effort may be a little too late.
As an update on the shaky financial conditions, the following are highlights from the January 9 Clay County Emergency Ambulance Authority (CCEAA) meeting held at 6 pm at the Health Dept. building on Main Street in Clay. Boardsters present: Chair Bob Ore and members Gene King, Harald Fields, Arlie Fulks, Fran King, and Jimmy Sams along with 25 or so in the peanut gallery. Absent: Larry Cole
Much of the evening was spent on the ANew Deal@ presented by CCEAA treasurer Fran King. After doing a bunch of number crunching, Ms King has come up with a workable budget that can allow for the continuation of the service. Her lengthy presentation was supported with ledger sheets and puter read outs. According to Fran, if they stay within a 7 to $8000.00 payroll budget including benefits, they can survive. This budget scenario calls for a two man duty crew (includes a Paramedic) to be on duty 8 am to midnight Monday thru Friday and 16 hours on the weekends. A third EMT to be on duty at the Clay Station at the same time. The EMT will respond to the next call by calling out a volunteer driver which will be met somewhere along the way or at the scene. Ms King=s concern was over a long Alag time@ if no provisions were in place for call out when the duty crew is gone. King wanted no reference to the EMT as a Adispatcher@. At one point in the meeting, an employee even said that they don=t do dispatching!
As far as figures go: Income for the last six months was $202,634 which averages out to around $33,000.00 per month. To date this month, the CCEAA has received around $14,000.00. With $8,000.00 as the targeted budget for a two week period, the numbers should work according to King. She reported that the service has just $5,255.74 to their name now. Many in the crowd, including the employees, seemed receptive to the Fran Plan. Member Gene King seemed antsy and wanting to bolt out the door. About half through the meeting he did just that!
Ms King continued with: Purchase Orders will now be used and only herself and Supervisor Cookie Johnson can OK the purchase. As for the big time past due $6,000.00 Broad Base Tax Fee, that has been reduced ( there was a payment made and never acknowledged by the State) ;the loan payment to the Bank of Gassaway is not due yet; they can handle Unemployment and Worker=s Comp payments coming due; and they still owe $7900.00 to PEIA.
In an attempt to generate more revenues, CCEAA voted to raise the fee charged to Fola Coal for ambulance service coverage from $3.00 per man to $5.00 per man. Greg Fitzwater from the peanut gallery reminded all that it was the County Commission that lowered the fee originally and Jimmy Sams commented that no coal company has to pay the expense.
And then... Mention was made that there are problems with this week=s payroll which had two holidays. Some employees were still receiving double time pay. Fran, AIt=s in chaos!@ In an attempt to correct the situation the checks were rewritten and this time many employees were shorted 4 hours of holiday pay. During the last holiday, overtime amounted to $961.00 and one employee drew over $100.00 in OT. After talking to WV Wage and Hour folks in Charleston, King said the law does not require being paid for a holiday and time and one half is normal for working such a shift. Commissioner Matthew Bragg arrived. Big time discussion on what the policy manual says about over time pay. Gene King was in favor of no pay for holiday if you don=t work.
Get this, well into the discussion, Jimmy Sams realized that ambulance personnel were treated differently from other county workers who receive pay while they are off on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Sams,@ I think they should get paid for a holiday. I think we should change that..@ Still later, Sams again repeated his thoughts. No decision made and employees will continue to be short changed in addition to the recently added cutbacks that further reduce their meager incomes.
Fields questioned why there are 24 , 18, and 12 hour shifts to begin with. Why not a normal 8 hour shift? He was given no answer. The longer shifts will continue.
Discussion turned back to having just one crew on duty at a time and how other providers are coming into the county and taking the business. Gene asked about a recent incident where there was a case of the duty crew being away when a chest pain call came in. An answer on the issue came from 911 Coordinator Paige Willis who stated that 911 dispatchers, by law, call out the nearest ambulance available . From the gallery came comments over long delays when the unit comes from Summersville, Gauley Bridge and beyond.
During questioning from a peanutster, Fran King got pretty smug, arrogant, pretentious, bombastic, pompous, smart arss when responding to questions relating to continuing the local dispatching service while 911 in Summersville is paid to do the same thing. Ms King went on to say that her wrecker company would begin using their own dispatching service ($85.00 per month). Many in the county have publicly said that a government agency should not be providing dispatching service for private for profit corporations for free as has been the case for over a decade.
Certainly the most heart wrenching story for the night came from Ovapa resident David Samples who made public a recent incident involving his infant daughter. According to Samples, his baby recently went into convulsions and he called 911 for an ambulance. Samples felt that it took the unit an hour or so to arrive and had he not been given the run around by the dispatcher, he would have not wasted any time and immediately driven the child to the hospital himself. No answers given but EMT Patty Mollahan, the person that handled the run, will check on how long it actually took.
Samples said he wasn=t there to cause any trouble but he thought the county could do better than this and...@ Why did it take so long?...... Where were they?.... Why couldn=t they tell me where it [ambulance] was?.... They could have killed my baby!..... If they ain=t going to be there, I=d be better off going myself than standing there waiting..... Shouldn=t they have told me!@ Chair Bob Ore was concerned that local dispatchers took over after the call originally went to the 911 center in Nicholas County. Greg Fitzwater stated that he had always believed that the county would have been better off putting the 911 center in this county. Paige Willis challenged that statement. Fields,@ He deserves an answer.@
After lots of comments in support of reopening the Big Otter station, CCEAA reversed it=s decision from 14 days ago and agreed to reopen the Big Otter Satellite station. As for the Lizemore Station reopening Ore commented that he wanted to gather more info before making that decision. Several in the gallery spoke up on the need to reopen the Lizemore center and how doing so made good business sense. Expect a decision at the next meeting.
No decision on getting the community paid for Adrop chains@ installed, used, or returned for ambulance 14 which serves Big Otter
As for decisions, the Fran plan stuck and the group now feels the service can survive. Harald Fields seemed to be the lone desenter although Sams made a few comments as well.
At the end of the meeting Commissioner Matthew Bragg stood and spoke out on life in general which included, AI=d like a 911 call center....we spent $300,000.00 in Nicholas...I appreciate the employees here, I know you have been cut to the bone.... I am disappointed that we=re being sued... I am not afraid to loose... the lawsuit costs the taxpayers money.. I want to keep our service...@ Bragg went on to dispel a rumor that he was secretly trying to negotiate with a private ambulance service to take over the Clay operation. Bragg=s comments appeared to be well received.
|Have we got many answers? Nope, but there is now a business plan, the Fran Plan, to operate from and that=s an improvement