The latest developments in our local politics regarding the rescue squad were the ethics and judicial hearings. The ethics panel determined that the County Commissioners did not violate any laws when they purchased the foreclosed rescue squad building to house the Ambulance Authority, which they were establishing. And, they did not violate any laws by establishing an annual fee ($120) for each household in the county.
However, the judge who reviewed the authority of the County Commission to purchase the building and establish the fee nullified both actions because they were done without consultation of the citizens. This was based on the technical point that the County Commission did not have jurisdiction to make these decision because they did not have established meeting times (the accusation has been that after two meeting with public protest, they called a third meeting which was not announced and voted) nor posted agendas. In fact the agenda for the day they voted on establishing the fee had only a pencilled in mention that the fee would be discussed… pencilled in the morning of a 9 a.m. meeting.
Then the County Commission basically said they would post their meeting schedule for the rest of the year, refund last years fees, and published in the agenda that they plan to vote to establish the same fee for next year. Then their lawyer filed a suit stating that the judge did not have jurisdiction to rule because the petition was not filed within 120 days.. which of course depends on which date you wish to pick…
As you can imagine, I had a concept for a Letter to the Editor ready to send off once the news hit the local paper. Moorefield Examiner, Letter to the Editor
Now that the lawyers and judges have filed their opinions about the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority, we can see the difference between good governance and adhering to the technicalities of the law.
Good-Old-Boy networks are okay, as long as no laws are violated. The County Commissioner’s and Judge Frye’s authority of jurisdiction have more to do with announcing dates and receiving petitions within a certain number of days, rather than the core decisions about how to fund and run a service to citizens. Ministers should not take a tax exemption for the full house, when they use that house to hold church meetings.
When I was in college, I receive feedback from my professors not only on whether I spelled words and used punctuation correctly, but also on whether I had anything meaningful to say in my essay. Having poor penmanship and spelling capacity, I am more likely to forgive the County Commissioners, if they made a good decision. In my opinion, they have missed the point. But, I have addressed this previously, and will move onto other suggestions for how they could better govern our current situation.
Addressing only the provision of ambulance services is piecemeal decision making. I would recommend that they widen their vision to the reality that citizens benefit from a variety of emergency services, and that these service work together. Furthermore, each service faces the same issues of funding, legal responsibilities related to training and stocking supplies, worker’s compensation and liability insurance protection, and volunteers and professionals working together.
I suggest that the County Commission call each of the different agencies (ambulance squads, fire stations, police, 911 Call Center, and Office of Emergency Management) together, along with citizens whom they serve, to look at how these agencies function, what challenges they face, and how they coordinate their work. Acknowledge that each agency needs key positions filled by paid professionals. Volunteers can have a role, but should not be expected to invest months and thousands of dollars in training for a pat on the back, and a bucket to collect funds on holiday weekends. With this type of forum, the County Commission can make decision, and possibly have the backing of it’s constituents when time comes to vote and write a check to pay for these services.
In the meantime, given the lack of leadership on this issue, when I receive my $120 refund check from the HCEAA, I plan to turn it over to the Mathias-Baker Volunteer Fire department. I encourage any one else who has been able to live without their $120 for the past year to do the same for the fire and rescue squad that serves them. Until the County Commission comes up with a better, and legally enacted play, that money would be helpful for the groups in Wardensville, Mathias-Baker, Moorefield, Old Fields, and South Fork.