By Jean A. Flanagan
Moorefield Examiner –
‘When you wait an hour for an ambulance,
someone is going to die.’
—County Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger
After two long and loud public meetings, the Hardy County Commission voted not to impose an ambulance fee on county residents nor finalize purchase of the former Mathias Baker Rescue Squad facility. “You all made it loud and clear you don’t want that,” said Commission President J. Michael Teets.
It is unclear if the county forfeits the $50,000 deposit it gave at the auction.
More than a dozen people packed the commission meeting Tuesday, July 16. Many had been at a public meeting the night before, the second such meeting called by the County Commissioners to garner public input.
Sara Young who attended the July 15 public hearing, gave a summation of that meeting to the commissioners.
“The community was offered a gift last night,” she said. “The community said loudly they wanted no fee. The community said they were unable to support a building like the one in Baker. The community said to let the volunteers try to get back on their feet. The community said they wanted the county to help with training.”
Young also thanked the commissioners for listening to the opinions of the citizens.
The gift of which she spoke is an offer by Janie Berg, owner of Loudoun Heights Fuel Company, to use one of their buildings as a fire/rescue station. The Bergs have made extensive renovations on the building, but at this point it has no water, sewer or heat.
The Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority, at the direction of the County Commission placed the winning bid of $1.13 million on the former Mathias Baker Rescue Squad building in Baker.
Residents were infuriated when they learned the commissioners had indebted taxpayers with such a large amount without their knowledge or consent. When the ambulance fee was proposed, citizens naturally assumed it was to pay for the building.
In reality, the ambulance fee was proposed to enable emergency medical service to continue in Hardy County. Part of the fee was to be used to reimburse EMS squads based on the number of responses they have. The fee was also to be used to restock ambulances, pay for fuel, continue service on major pieces of equipment and purchase new equipment as needed.
“Hardy County has taken a step backwards,” said Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger in response to the motion that the county not impose and ambulance fee. “The building was donated, but we don’t know the terms. It’s like living in a shack and looking at the mansion next door.
“A million dollars seems like a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket if you consider all the taxes the people of this county pay…