Opioid Settlement Money on the Way to Pocahontas County

Attorney Stephen Skinner informed the Pocahontas County Commissioners at their December 19th meeting that the first round of opioid lawsuit settlement funds at being sent out and should be received by the county in days. While Skinner said he was unable to provide the exact amount due the county at this time, he did say the amount the county can expect to receive “is likely to be several hundred thousand dollars.”   He said the payments will be spread out over time, which might be up to 12 years. Skinner said that there are “guardrails” for spending the money, and he said these are generally that it be spent on opioid-crisis related expenses, such as to pay jail bills. He said he will forward a memorandum that will provide more information of those guardrails.

Herbie Barlow, who is the Chief of the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department, a member of the county EMS Board, and a representative to Pocahontas County Deputy Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission, asked for commission support for two proposals.

As our listeners are aware, Commissioner John Rebinski, in response to the dwindling number of volunteers, has established a paid Pocahontas County Ambulance Service in the Northern part of the county, which is now operating and staffed with county employees.

Barlow, citing the same volunteer problems, proposed to establish a paid ambulance and fire service for the Southern and Central portions of the county. He said the Marlinton VFD will be operating this new service in conjunction with the Hillsboro VFD, and will provide all of the equipment, supplies, a station and the use of the Marlinton VFD’s license and DEA certificate for the new service.at no cost to the county. He said they have acquired a building across from the ARC Building in Marlinton to serve as the station for this service which has both a garage to house the vehicles and an apartment for the crew to stay in.

He said the only expense to the county would be to pay the salaries of a driver, an EMT or Paramedic, and a firefighter. Barlow estimates that cost would be about $296,000 for a full year.

The commissioners seemed to be interested in this proposal, however Commission President Walt Helmick said they would need some time to work out details regarding the county-employee status of the staff for this service, so the commissioners put off making any decision on this until their January 2nd meeting. Members of both Marlinton and Hillsboro V’’’’

?>DFs attended the meeting to show their support for this proposal.

Barlow’s next proposal was to request that the commission provide a $10,000 pay raise for every Pocahontas County Deputy Sheriff, as well as to increase the starting pay for new deputies by the same amount. He said the lack of qualified applicants and the inability to hold on to existing deputies makes this a necessary expense to stay competitive with other jurisdictions. Barlow said the last four deputies to leave the department all moved on to better paying law enforcement positions elsewhere, and as a result the Sheriff’s Department is very short-handed. He also said they have had to lower the passing score on the Civil Service Test for deputies in an attempt to hire replacements, but that lowering of standards is not working out well either. Once again, the commissioners deferred any decision on this proposal to their next meeting.  About six uniformed Deputy Sheriffs attended the meeting in support of this proposal.

Be sure to listen to Allegheny Mountain Radio for the second part of this meeting story, where we will fill you in on the rest of things that happened at this 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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