By Adam Pack
Amy Hubbard and Lisa Carter spoke to the Greenbrier County Commission at their latest meeting about West Virginia Helping Hands, which is located in Ronceverte. Formed in January 2021 in response to what Hubbard described as growing crises in our community for families and children, the organization’s mission is to “address and recognize the struggles in disadvantaged families, especially for those with inconsistent living arrangements and persistent family issues.” The organization has recently entered an agreement to buy the old hospital in Ronceverte and renovate it into a “residential education center.” Hubbard explained that such a center would provide “job training, education, and recognizing whatever situations are in people’s path that are keeping them from being independently successful” for those who “don’t have a secure place to live.”
Hubbard made sure to point out that this project is not a ‘homeless shelter,’ but rather a transitional facility which will provide “temporary housing to people who do not have it, while working diligently with existing programs and services to help this person to the end goal of being independently successful. We want to work with people to solve their issues and discover what it is that’s keeping them from being independent.” She emphasized, “We do not want to harbor a culture of victimhood. We will have security, residents will be vetted, and we are not going to handle drug use or offer drug abuse counseling, nor do we intend to take that on. That being said, we will help anyone that comes,” but that may mean referral to other programs. However, “if they still need help after having dealt with their drug abuse and or withdrawal issues, we will be happy to take them in.”
Hubbard broke down the center’s planned services by floor. “The first floor will be family residences and the second floor will be for adult individuals. We’ll also have a kitchen and a culinary program run by our own Lisa Carter, who has been such an asset to us.” Hubbard concluded by saying that the planned center “is not a bandaid. This is not a shelter where you get a bed and a bowl of cereal in the morning and nothing else. This is a resource, an opportunity to look at why people are in the scenarios they find themselves in and help them get past that.”
In other news, Dean Meadows, Director of the West Virginia 911 Council, spoke to the Commission about retirement funds available to retired 911 center employees. Currently, those funds are not folded into the RS (rescue services)/EMS (emergency medical services) retirement fund that police, fire, and EMS service retirees have access to, and Meadows and his colleagues are currently lobbying to pass legislation which would change that. “The ER/EMS retirement fund is a much better one, and the legislature passed legislation last year to move new employees onto the RS/EMS plan. If county commissions sign a resolution allowing new (911 center) employees to draw from the RS/EMS funds they can, but we’re trying now to get all existing 911 center employees eligible to move over to the ER/EMS accounts. The more counties that sign on to the current system, which allows any new 911 center employees to opt into the RS/EMS account, the better it will look in Charleston for further legislation,” said Meadows. A bill to that effect was submitted in the most recent legislative session but did not pass due to “some technicalities some legislative lawyers found,” according to Meadows, and he is hoping the bill will pass in a special session. Meadows added that, “Mike Honaker, by the way, has been working hard and really helping us with that.”
The resolution to allow new 911 center employees to draw from ER/EMS accounts, described by Meadows as “a great recruitment and retention tool,” would cost the county 0.5 percent more if passed. The County Commission took the resolution to allow new 911 center employees to opt into the ER/EMS retirement account and will review it with counsel before taking action at a later date.
In other news, Greenbrier County student Lydia Jackson of Eastern Greenbrier Middle School was given an honorable mention by the state Association of County Commissions for her essay submission on the topic, “How My County Commission Makes Life Better.” Jackson, whose accompanying teacher was Mr. Michael Anderson, both are receiving monetary awards for their selection.
The 4-H Extension office took on a new hire; Olivia Simms. Simms, who applied for 4-H Program Assistant, has gone through the interview process with the Extension Office and meets all requirements through WVU Extension. The County approved the hiring of Simms to 4-H Program Assistant.
The bid for work to the exterior of the home confinement office was opened at the meeting, as well. The building, located in Ronceverte, was bid on by one company: Adam Whanger Contracting. Work detailed included scraping, painting, caulk, and other exterior maintenance on the building. The bid total was $7,950. The bid is now pending review by the county’s legal counsel.
The county also read the updated Greenbrier County Floodplain Ordinance for the first time. The county will read the updated Ordinance the second time at their next meeting, at which time they will take action regarding passage of the ordinance.
The Greenbrier County Commission will meet again on Tuesday, June, at 10 a.m. in the Greenbrier County Commission offices, in the basement of the courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend. Interested parties should call 304-647-6689 ahead, as times and dates are subject to change.
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