Ambulance, library funding top agenda at Jefferson Co. meeting

February 01, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A meeting among local governments Wednesday afternoon began with a discussion about how to share ambulance costs and it ended up touching on library funding, area police departments and annexation.

Local towns, county government and school officials meet periodically as a "council of governments" to discuss issues of concern.

Wednesday's meeting was held at 5 p.m. at the Charles Town Visitors Center and it covered:

· Ambulance service. Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel said the cost of funding the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority "is going up, up, up" and he proposed that the cities help pay for the cost. About $1 million was budgeted by the county commission last year to run the paid ambulance service and this year it is expected to cost about $1.5 million, Manuel said.

"It's a situation where it continues to eat away at our budget. It's going up at an astronomical rate," Manuel said.


Charles Town Councilman Don Clendening said he could not speak for all Charles Town representatives, but said he fears city residents will object to it. The county gives the city slot machine revenue and now the county wants money back, Clendening said after the meeting.

Clendening said he felt a more fair way to pay for increased ambulance costs is a countywide fee.

· Libraries. Commissioner Rusty Morgan said he did not want the meeting to turn into a session of the county "begging for money," but he noted there is a large disparity between how much money the county gives for libraries compared to what cities give. Clendening said after the meeting that he realizes the Charles Town Library provides a valuable service, but the city's budget is strained.

· Annexation. Clendening said fixed expenses for city government continue to rise, prompting the city to feel obligated to annex new areas where commercial growth can occur and boost the city's tax revenue.

Clendening said after the meeting that Charles Town has some businesses within its limits that generate tax revenue, but it is not enough to keep up with increased costs of utilities and having to keep city employee wages competitive.

"There's nothing left over," Clendening said of the city's tight budget.

· Police. The discussion touched on the idea of a combined police force in the county rather than individual police departments.

Previous consideration has been given to combining the county police departments into one force to expand police protection in the county, although there was a concern that using town police departments to build the force would leave the towns without the officers they need.

Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols gave the council of governments some food for thought on the issue of expanded police protection.

Nichols said Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober has told him recently that football games for Jefferson High School and the new Washington High School should not be held on the same nights because there will not be enough police to work both events simultaneously.

"Every day my life is full of surprises," Nichols said.

"Interesting discussion. We should definitely be talking," said County Commission President Frances Morgan.

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