Pocahontas County Commission Settles Long-Outstanding Towing and Storage Bills
The Pocahontas County Commissioners tackled $18,795.00 in outstanding invoices owed to F & F Service Center at their February 19th meeting. Bill Fisher of F & F presented copies of these invoices to the Commissioners at this meeting. The invoices involved three vehicles that had been towed to F & F at the direction of law enforcement who had also told F & F that the vehicles were not to be released to anyone, but held as evidence of crimes. The vehicles were towed several years ago and all of them spent a lot of time being stored at F & F at a daily cost of $15.00 per day per vehicle. Fisher explained that those rates are set by the State for all tow calls received from 911, therefore he cannot negotiate the cost down. He added that the State rate was raised to $25,00 per day while the vehicles were being stored, but he is leaving the charge at the $15 rate it was at the beginning of the storage.
One of these vehicles has racked up a hefty towing and storage bill of $17,797.50. The trial for the case, including appeal time ended over a year ago which ended the need to keep storing the vehicle at F & F. The other two vehicles had been released earlier and they did not spend nearly as much time in storage but still generated invoices totaling $997.50. During the discussion over this, it was brought out that neither the Commission nor Gene Simmons, the County Prosecutor, had been aware that the vehicles were in storage all that time.
At one-point things got heated as Commission Attorney Bob Martin discussed with Prosecutor Gene Simmons about who was responsible for the vehicles being in storage. Martin quoted the WV Code as saying the Prosecutor’s office is responsible for all “criminal business” which he said would include the storage of evidence. This upset Simmons, and they had the following exchange, which was eventually terminated by Commission President McLaughlin.
Martin – “with all due respect, Mr. Simmons, if you look at (WV Code) 7-4-1, the duties of the Prosecutor…”
Simmons: “I saw that”
Martin: “the Prosecutor’s Office is to attend to the business of the State…”
Simmons: “Don’t tell me what the law is Bob …(and then to the Commissioners) He is here for civil practice, he has no authority in the Prosecutor’s budget at all”
Martin: “Mt. Simmons, I am explaining to the Commission what the law is,,,”
McLaughlin: “OK, we’re not here to argue the law, we’re here to settle these bills’”
After that testy exchange, the Commissioners quickly passed a motion to have F & F paid the $997.50 for the invoices for the other two vehicles.
They asked Fisher which law enforcement authorized the tow and hold on the vehicles, and he answered that the State Police later told him to hold the vehicle, but he received the tow request from the 911 Center and doesn’t know which agency exactly made the call to 911. This concerned Commissioner Helmick because in the future the State Police could call to our 911 Center for a tow for one of their cases from another county, and this Commission would end up paying the bill. Another issue discussed was how to avoid this situation from re-occurring, and Martin suggested that when law enforcement places a hold on a vehicle, the tow companies should be required to invoice the Commission monthly. Martin also said he would check with all the county towers to make sure there are no other such vehicles in storage without the Commission’s knowledge.
The discussion about what Commission President McLaughlin called “the big bill” -the $17,797.50 bill for that third vehicle continued, but In the end the Commission and the Prosecutor agreed to split the costs, with the Prosecutor’s Office paying $9,000 out of its budget toward that 3rd vehicle’s invoice (“the big bill”,} as well as the $997.50 for the other two invoices, with the Commission paying the remaining $8797.50 out of its own budget.
In other actions at the meeting, they adjourned the spring Board of Review and Equalization hearings and set the dates for their Budget work sessions to be held at the Commission Office as follows:
- Thursday, March 7, at 10:00 a.m.
- Monday, March 11, at 10:00 a.m.
- Wednesday, March 13, at 10:00 a.m.
Final approval of the budget will be at the 5:30 p.m. regular Commission meeting. On Tuesday, March 19.
Day Report Center Director Daniel Arbogast delivered an update on the Center to the Commissioners. Be sure to listen to our upcoming interview with Arbogast where he explains just what the Center does.
They appointed Ron Fleming as the Physician Representative, and Jennifer Miller Barlow as the Marlinton Rescue Representative to three-year term on the Pocahontas County Emergency Medical Services Authority.
Beth Little and several members of the Eight Rivers Council asked the Commissioners to issue a Resolution calling upon our elected legislators to pass legislation that would require Frontier to provide better Internet and telephone service to the County. The Commissioners did pass the Resolution.
The Commissioners adjourned the meeting after approving of outstanding invoices.