Pocahontas Commissioners Discuss Distribution of EMS Salary Enhancement Fund

The Pocahontas Commissioners have received $143,000 from the WV Office of Emergency Medical Services under a program to ensure adequate ambulance staffing in the state. This money is to be used to enhance the pay of ambulance crew members, and is to be distributed to ambulance organizations based upon the number of calls their members respond to, and they will further distribute the money to their paid EMS workers based upon the number of EMS calls those employees handle. At the December 5th commission meeting, Commissioner John Rebinski explained that he is not aware of any time limit to distribute the money by but they are not supposed to give it all out at one time. Rebinski said he has an issue with this method for the distribution of the funds since only 5 of the 6 volunteer fire departments (VFD) in the county pay their ambulance staff. He said three of those have actual paid ambulance staff, two others pay them on a per call basis, and one does not pay their ambulance crews anything, so that VFD would not receive any of the funds.  Rebinski said he feels this distribution method as set forth by the state punishes volunteers, and he does not want to exclude that one VFD simply because they rely only on unpaid EMS volunteers. Rebinski said he is still looking for a way around the state’s distribution method which would allow him to distribute the funds even to the EMS workers at that one all volunteer VFD, but is not sure if he can find a way around it.

Also at this commission meeting, B.J. Gudmundsson delivered an update and annual report on Preserving Pocahontas, explaining that their primary mission is to maintain a digital archive of historical records and they have had a “huge” year in which they are emphasizing not just Heritage Tourism, but since COVID, their Internet heritage visits have grown immensely. She said over the last 7 months, the number of site visits on their website has doubled each month, and their site has been bookmarked on hundreds of thousands of computers. She said they have received over 15,000 visits from just one library in Washington State. Gudmundsson and Bob Sheets brought and displayed photo prints from the recently acquired prints and photo negatives from the recently deceased famous photographer, Doug Chadwick. Chadwick’s sister donated these to Preserving Pocahontas. She also talked about several other recently acquired collections.

Jodi Zickefoose, the Director of the Pocahontas County Day Report asked the commissioners to consider painting the interior of their offices in the ARC (sometimes referred to as the Former Shoe Factory) Building. She said the painting is badly needed there and also that there is no heat in the bathrooms, which should be fixed as well. Commission President Walt Helmick said he and the courthouse custodians will visit the Day Report offices and figure out what needs to be done concerning these issues.

Commissioner Rebinski had also placed an item on the meeting agenda about maintenance of the county-owned lots in East Cass. He explained that he is upset that a local resident in East Cass, Davis Cain, insists on mowing the county-owned lot that adjoins his property, despite being told not to do so since the commissioners had decided to let that lot grow native since it is hard to access, rocky and isolated on the river. While Rebinski seemed to want to take action to prevent Cain from maintaining the lot because of liability issues, Commission President Helmick insisted that the commission takes up too much time on these lot issues, and we simply need to concentrate on giving the lots back to FEMA, who gave them to the county years ago, or to give them to the State Parks, who seem a little bit interested in them, and he was not going to waste anymore commission time discussing these lots.

Alex Hewitt. Senator Joe Manchin’s Regional Coordinator attended the meeting and said the Senator remains committed to helping the state for the remainder of his term, despite his decision to not run for reelection in 2024. He said Manchin is currently working hard for the FY 25 CDS Funding program. He said last year, about 250 of the organizations that applied for this funding were approved.

Helmick asked Hewitt to see if Senator Manchin can help the county get the old jail building off the National Registry of Historic Places; help with the funding of the new 911 Center; and to help getting FEMA to take back those East Cass lots it had given to the county.

Additionally, the commissioners:

  • Created a County Fire Protection Fund and checking account.
  • Approved to post a position to fill a vacancy for a Day Report Officer.
  • Discussed, but made no decisions on changes to their personnel policy regarding travel meal allowances, milage reimbursement for travel and cleaning allowances for uniformed county employees.

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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