By Jean A. Flanagan
Moorefield Examiner –
Hardy County residents will shortly receive a bill for $10 per month, or $120 per year, for ambulance service. The funds will be due on Sept. 1 and must be paid by Sept. 30 or payment will be considered late and additional charges will be assessed.
The Hardy County Commission met on Tuesday, Aug. 20 and approved an ordinance to fund the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority with the fee. Commissioner A. J. Wade voted against the ordinance.
“There is an application for hardship cases,” Commission President J. Michael Teets said. “The ambulance authority can make recommendations, but the commission has the final say.”
HCEAA President Greg Greenwalt said there is also an exoneration process for owners of second homes within the county.
The vote culminates months of debate and rancor about whether county residents should pay a fee to support ambulance service in Hardy County. Previously, ambulance services were provided by a private company and several groups of volunteers.
The issue came to the forefront when the Mathias Baker Rescue Squad ceased operation and their building and equipment were repossessed by the bank.
The commissioners voted to establish a separate checking account for the collected fees. According to state law, it is the commission’s responsibility to collect the fees and distribute them to the ambulance authority.
Also, according to state code, the ambulance authority must provide the commission with a quarterly accounting of the funds.
The commissioners also voted to lease the former MBRS building to the HCEAA for a rate of $1 per year.
Commissioner Wade voted against the lease and refused to sign it.
In June, the HCEAA submitted the winning bid of $1.13 million for the building sold at public auction. The Hardy County Commission supported the bidding on the building
In July, the commission voted to not purchase the building after two contentious public meetings where county residents opposed the purchase.
The commission then voted at the Aug. 2 meeting to go ahead with the purchase.
It should be noted, Commissioner Wade has consistently voted against the ambulance fee and against the purchase of the building.
Commissioner Wade said he thought it strange that at a July meeting, both Commissioner Teets and Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger voted against the purchase of the building and then in August, voted the opposite.
“I think that decision was made between those two meetings,” he said. “I think at some point those two talked. Some people might be able to challenge the whole thing. I think it was done improperly.”
“I resent the accusation you are making,” Teets said. “We didn’t talk. We just made the decision we knew was right for the citizens of Hardy County.”
The question was raised as to whether Keplinger’s position on the HCEAA board is a voting member or just advisory.
“I don’t want any commissioner who calls taxpayers “wild people” a voting member of any board,” said Wendy Miller.
Keplinger made the comment at the Aug. 2 commission meeting that, “I listened to those wild people for awhile,” referring to the two public meetings held about the ambulance fee.
“What I said was pulled out of context,” Keplinger said. “I don’t talk like that. If I offended anyone, I apologize. Maybe I said the wrong thing for the right reasons.”
Elaine Davis said the people who deserve a written apology are the Bergs. “You called their four-bay garage a shack when they opened their purses to make it usable,” she said.
The Bergs own Loudoun Heights/Grant County Mulch in Baker. Their offices are located almost directly across the street from the MBRS building. They offered to house a fire truck and ambulance in one of their buildings when the bank foreclosed. They remodeled the building, installed a new roof and offered to install water and septic service.
“If I had been insulted like that, I would have pulled my business out of Hardy County,” Davis said.
Davis also asked how much money was left in the building fund that paid for the rescue squad building.
“$240,000,” said County Clerk Gregg Ely.
Davis asked what was the purpose of the public meetings…