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Berkeley Co. to hold hearing on ambulance authority's request to increase fee

Resident questioned how the ambulance authority had been spending fees collected

March 03, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council will hold a public hearing on the county ambulance authority's request to increase its household fee by $15 a year, but council members gave no indication Thursday night if they would approve the proposal.

The public hearing was not immediately scheduled, but several residents criticized the proposed increase — from $50 to $65 — during a hearing held last week by the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority.

On Thursday, in a presentation to the council, resident Rick Trenary questioned how the ambulance authority had been spending fees collected.

Trenary outlined a real estate relationship that he had with the ambulance authority dating to July 2005. Trenary said he purchased the ambulance authority's Station 98 building along Arden Nollville Road for $550,000 and leased it back to the agency for more than four years.

At the time of the sale, Trenary said the authority owed $10,097 on the building, but it ultimately paid $217,150.16 in rent and taxes through the lease agreement.

The authority had hoped to be there for only one year, according to Trenary.

"Who planned this?" asked Trenary, who questioned the authority's planning and other real estate decisions, which combined to cost taxpayers more than $580,000.

"It's time for a change in the management of the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority," Trenary said. "In closing, I assure these figures are factual. I did not make these up. I can verify every one."  

While Trenary agreed that the authority needs a fee increase, he contended the reasons given by the agency were not entirely true.

In a statement to the council Thursday night, Charles R. Hall, president of the ambulance authority board, said most of the facts Trenary presented were true, but said Trenary left out the whole truth behind the decisions made by the board of directors.  

Hall said he had no apologies to offer for his decisions, or for those of the program manager or other board members. He also contended that Trenary's concern for taxpayers' money appeared to have begun after the ambulance authority refused Trenary's offer to extend a rental agreement that included about a 50 percent rate increase.

Hall said he was open to revisiting Trenary's presentation "point by point" with council members and noted the agency's financial statements were open for inspection.

In advocating for a fee increase, Hall has said that the authority had not purchased an ambulance since 2008, and noted demands for service are expected to continue to grow. The agency handled about 5,000 transports last year, according to Hall.

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