By Stephen Smoot
The second July meeting of the Pendleton County Commission opened with an invocation from Roger Dahmer, county commissioner. He prayed that God would “give us what we need in the season that we need it.”
Karen Pitsenbarger, county administrator, reported that the rescue squad requested help in replacing tile flooring in their facility. Diane Mitchell, county 911 coordinator, warned that some of the tiles could contain asbestos, with Carl Hevener, county commission president, responding “we just need to go down there and take a look at it.”
Rick Gillespie, Pendleton County emergency services coordinator, followed up by proposing the hiring of a new 911 telecommunicator. “He comes to us with the majority of his qualifications from his service in Grant County.” Gillespie added that “applications are still open” and “would love to hire additional people, both full and part time.”
Gillespie then discussed the drone purchased to support emergency services. He explained that the $9,000 drone will serve as “our own air wing.” It can more efficiently and with less cost serve many of the same functions as a helicopter in emergency response situations. Gillespie said that it would be much more reliable as well, since occasionally helicopter requests go unfulfilled.
“They’re pretty impressive with all you can do with them,” he explained to the commission. The drone’s capabilities include extreme zoom capabilities on the camera, the latest night vision technology, infrared capabilities, sensors to prevent crashing into objects or the operator, navigation lights, and more. The state fire marshal’s office currently uses them in fire investigations.
Federal Aviation Administration rules require that operators maintain a line of sight and Gillespie speculated that teams of spotters could give the drone added latitude there.
Commissioners also heard a report from Barbara Fortner, who runs the Senior Community Service Employment Program for Region 8 Planning and Economic Development. She shared that her program is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and benefits individuals 55 and over, low income or unemployed.
Despite the title, Fortner explains that “it’s considered training. It is not an employment program.” Seniors in the program perform roles with government or non-profit organizations to learn new workforce style skill sets. Her clients perform tasks for up to 15 hours a week at the Grant County Airport, Mineral County Courthouse, public housing, and other organizations in the area.