Pocahontas Commission Pays $11,358 Vehicle Storage Bill
Marlinton, West Virginia – For more than a year, a vehicle sat in storage at Johnny’s Garage in Edray, seemingly forgotten. Nobody knows who it belongs to, but the citizens of Pocahontas County will pay the $11,000 storage bill. The Pocahontas County Commission tried to determine which office is responsible for the bill during its March 20 meeting.
After an explosion ripped through the Hermitage Motel in Bartow on the night of January 5, 2011, the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department seized and impounded the vehicle. The state Fire Marshall’s office issued a report in March 2011, concluding that motel manager Darryl Wagner caused the explosion, as he attempted to steal propane, using an air compressor and portable propane tanks.
The involvement of the State Fire Marshall’s Office apparently caused a breakdown in communication about the impounded vehicle. Commissioner Martin Saffer says he spoke with the State Fire Marshall.
“Approximately six weeks after the incident, he told me he spoke directly with Donna Price and advised her that the Fire Marshall’s office had made the decision not to go forward and that the matter would be turned over to the Sheriff’s Department,” he said.
County Prosecutor Donna Price told the commission she did not prosecute a criminal case because the motel owner did not want to press charges. Price tells the commission she did not learn about the impounded vehicle until December of last year.
“I learned that that vehicle was at Mr. and Mrs. Deans facility, when I received a call from Mr. Dean on December fifth of 2011,” she said. “He called about the vehicle. The Fire Marshall seized this under his own warrant and doing.”
Sheriff David Jonese says the Fire Marshall’s Office had initial responsibility for the vehicle.
“The vehicle was under the control of the Fire Marshall in the initial investigation,” he said. “We have no involvement in that, whatsoever.”
Chief Deputy David Walton told the commission that the Fire Marshal, not the County Prosecutor, issued the search warrant, under which the vehicle as seized.
Saffer maintained that the Fire Marshal told him otherwise.
“The Fire Marshall told me it was secured under the authority of the prosecutor,” he said.
The Commission attempted to contact State Fire Marshall B.J. Robinson, by telephone, during the meeting, but Robinson could not be reached. Commission president David Fleming says it’s time to move on.
“My feeling on this is that we should just pay the invoice and move on,” he said.
The commission voted 3-0 to pay the $11,358 invoice from Johnny’s Garage, with the condition that the vehicle is released within 20 days.
David Barton, founder and President of health insurance company Shenandoah Valley Group, requested the commission allow an online health questionnaire for county employees. Barton said the results of the confidential survey, which his company will conduct, would allow him to prepare health insurance package options to offer to the county.
The county currently pays $167 per month per employee to the West Virginia Public Employee Insurance Agency. Barton said his company is saving Upshur County $80,000 a year, and could provide similar savings in Pocahontas County, based on the results of the survey.
The commission voted 2-1 to require the survey, with commissioner Jamie Walker opposed. County employees who fail to complete the questionnaire could lose their government-provided health insurance, if the county contracts with Shenandoah Valley Group.
The commission voted 3-0 to terminate charges on current employee purchase cards, effective March 31, as a new purchasing card system is implemented. The commission agreed to establish purchasing card policies with the West Virginia Auditors Office.
In other business, the commission heard an update on the county Water Task Force from Lynn Marie Knight, and agreed to reduce employee tobacco insurance rate surcharges by $10, for employees who participate in an optional wellness plan.
The next regular Pocahontas County Commission meeting is scheduled for April 3.