By Stephen Smoot
The county commission took up routine business at its meeting last week, starting with discussion of the county employee insurance plan up for renewal.
Both the Healthcare Reimbursement Account and health insurance plans are coming up for renewal. Commissioners learned that the HRA would see no changes while the health insurance plan would see increases of five percent in premiums. Commissioner Carl Hevener replied “I’m surprised it did not go up more than that.”
County Clerk Elise White explained that the current plan was “the cheapest one there is,” and that Pendleton County had been grandfathered in. White added that “if we change plans, there is a significant difference in premiums.”
Gene McConnell, Pendleton County commission president, inquired about the cost of the state run PEIA insurance program. White explained that recent changes in the law governing PEIA now exclude non-state agencies unless they had been continuously covered since before the law changed.
The county commission unanimously voted to retain the current HRA and health insurance plans.
Rick Gillespie, Pendleton County Emergency Management Director, gave a brief report on regional first responder trainings. He explained that Pendleton County participated in a wildfire response training in Hardy County and a small plane crash drill in Tucker County. Units in Seneca Rocks launched a simulated response that also included calls for mutual aid.
The trainings taught important tactical skills for the first responders.
Gillespie said future drills and trainings in conjunction with Columbia Gas could involve simulated response to a pipeline incident. He said there is “not much that first responders can do” to put a “high pressure natural gas fire out.” First responders would, in such a situation, keep people out of the “danger zone.”
“That all went well,” Gillespie noted about the trainings conducted. He assessed 911 operations as “going as smooth as one can expect.”
Commissioners also discussed a series of potential grants. First, they approved a local economic development grant resolution. In past years, this state funded grant has brought $27,000, but the commission will request $30,000 this time.
The county will apply for a Records Management and Preservation grant for the county clerk’s office. Money from this grant request for $10,227 would support efforts to index and scan county records and would require a 10% match from the county clerk’s office.
White said they have “been doing really good about giving us at least $10,000,” but that funds for this purpose decrease yearly.
Pendleton County was denied a grant to purchase new electronic pollbooks that would increase efficiency in data tabulation. White explained that they could have helped the county, but “we don’t have to have them.”
Commissioners welcomed a bid for snow removal services that would encompass plowing parking lots and salting sidewalks. The bid approximates what the county has paid for such services in the past. Gillespie urged that the new company be instructed to not salt the community building parking lot. Hevener agreed and said that the salt could seep into the ground under the lot and break up the needed compaction.
To close the meeting McConnell identified Rhett Dusenbury as Congressman Alex Mooney’s representative and asked if he had anything to present. Dusenbury responded that he was not there to present anything specific, except that “we’re ready and willing to help.” He then stayed after the meeting adjourned to answer questions and discuss issues with the full commission.
The county commission will meet next on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 11 a.m. in the courthouse.