County Commission Appears Skeptical of Marlinton & Hillsboro VFDs’ Proposal

Back during the December 19th Pocahontas County Commission Meeting, Herbie Barlow, presented a joint proposal by both the Marlinton VFD and the Hillsboro VFD to establish a paid 7 day-a-week ambulance and fire service for the Southern and Central portions of the county. Under this proposal, the two VFDs would provide both an ambulance and a fire truck, as well as all of the medical equipment and supplies, a station and the use of the Marlinton VFD’s license and DEA certificate at no cost to the county. He said they only ask the county to pay the salaries of a driver, an EMT or Paramedic, and a firefighter. Barlow estimated that would cost the county about $296,000 for a full year. At the time the commissioners, who appeared to be a bit surprised by this, yet also seemed somewhat interested in it, promised to think it over and let Barlow know their decision at their January 2nd meeting.

As background, Commissioner John Rebinski recently created the Pocahontas County Ambulance Service in the northern end of the county, and it is operating with an ambulance initially provided by the Cass VFD, and is staffed by paid county employees selected by Rebinski and approved by the commission. Barlow and others, including Commissioner Jamie Walker, have expressed frustration that the existing county ambulance service was limited to the northern part of the county.

Last fall the commission approved the purchase of a brand-new ambulance for use in the Central and southern portions of the county, however that ambulance will not be available for delivery for three years – 2026.

Barlow’s proposal was not brought up at the January 2nd commission meeting, however it was discussed at their January 16th meeting. Barlow reiterated his proposal.

Commissioner Jamie Walker said he liked the proposal, but wanted to wait to make a decision on it until he received an opinion from County Prosecutor Terri Helmick, who also serves as the commission’s attorney, about the legality of using county paid employees to staff equipment owned by a volunteer fire department.

Commissioner Rebinski said he does not want to let a volunteer fire department which uses county employees keep the money generated from insurance payments for ambulance responses by county paid employees. He also said he has questions about the legality of using county employees under this proposal, including employee insurance and benefits; liability to the county; and having county employees supervised by non-county employees.

Rebinski said he has been preparing to create a county-wide ambulance service by expanding his paid ambulance service to the central and southern areas. He said he is planning to purchase an ambulance and house it at the new 911/EMS building that will be built behind the hospital; and staff it with county employees.

Commission President Helmick said he leans toward having Rebinski eventually just expand the existing county ambulance service, although he indicated the commission is are still considering Barlow’s proposal.

Barlow seemed frustrated, and said he is offering all the equipment, vehicles and a station at no cost to the county except salaries while providing a vital service to the county that the commission is required to ensure is provided. He said he was led to believe in December that everything would be worked out ok, but now the commissioners seem like they don’t want to accept this proposal. He said he would talk to Terri Helmick about the issue Jamie Walker had brought up concerning the use of county employees for this service, but believes that issue can be settled by a simple Memorandum of Understanding between the Marlinton and Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Departments and the county.

Be sure to listen for part two of this January 16th Commission Meeting story where we will cover the rest of the meeting.


Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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