by Peggy Mackenzie
At the live stream of the April 28 Greenbrier County Commission meeting, Commission President Lowell Rose stated that the Courthouse will remain closed until Governor Jim Justice recommends the reopening of businesses throughout the state through a six-week gradual process. In the meantime, in preparation for the Courthouse eventual public opening, a plexiglass separation is being installed at the entrance doorway to protect security guards and other county employees. Rose said he was looking forward to churches opening to services soon at their own discretion.
Local commissions are also recipients of $100,000 from the governor for COVID-19-related funding needs, Rose said, with instructions that it not be used as bonuses or extra pay for employees. The commission will set up a separate account for the funds and review options. Having no plan to spend it quickly, Rose said it will most likely be used for supplies and personal protective equipment.
The county towing policy was once again on the agenda, a topic that never fails to elicit lengthy discussion. As Commission member Tammy Shifflett-Tincher stated, “This has been a problem the Commission has dealt with for years, long before I was elected to serve on the commission.” Today’s discussion of revisions to the policy was no exception.
Rose had three amendment revisions to the tow policy. First, he wanted to remove the requirement that all towers have conventional wreckers in order to be included in the towing policy rotation, thereby putting all towers back on the rotation list. Secondly, he wanted to remove the provision that prohibits towers from contracting with another tower, stating, “That’s not something the county should have anything to do with. It’s their own business.” And third, establish a “simple rotation,” in which each tower has an equal opportunity to provide road service. If a tower in the rotation is not available when called, the next in line will respond. If another tower “jumps the call,” that tower will lose his turn at the next rotation, and the original tower will remain at the top of the list.
The tow policy is a requirement to the county by the state to provide roadside assistance service and in cases when an accident has occurred. Commissioner Mike McClung asked why it was the county’s policy, “and not the state policy,” that each tower have a conventional wrecker in order to participate in the rotation list. “That is a major investment requiring them to spend thousands of dollars to adapt to our policy to be included in the rotation.” Quoting the code, he said, “WV code 24-6-12 says, ‘prompt, fair and equitable.’ This requirement is not equitable.” He noted that last November when the Commission voted in 11 changes to the tower policy, the wrecker requirement was not one of them. “Those towers without wreckers were not on the list,” he said.
Tincher noted that at that time, if there had been an issue, it could have been brought up, but it wasn’t. The policy is scheduled for review again in May, she said, suggesting that issue could be included in the discussions. Furthermore, towers are in business and can decide for themselves whether to participate in the rotation by purchasing a wrecker or not.
911 Director Mike Honaker chimed in, stating, “I’m not sure we have the authority to insure that towers have an equal chance to do business in a rotation. The motion today appears to pull back a bit.” He asked that the amendment include that owners (of vehicles) that request the services of a particular tower be considered a separate thing, and not interfere with the rotation policy.
McClung pointed out that for a tower to lose his place in the rotation because he jumps a call “is meaningless and not a punishment at all. He’s just switched his place in line.”
“The county doesn’t need to get any deeper into this issue,” Rose said, stating he thought McClung’s position made things somewhat more complicated. “If one tower gets into a grievance with another, that’s not our business.” Our mission is if there’s a breakdown on the highway, there is a tower available to help out.”
The revisions were made, including Honaker’s suggestion, and approved in two motions, one unanimous and the other 2-1.
In other county business:
~ A new hire was approved for the County Sheriff’s Office, with Andrew Barnett, having passed a rigorous background check, being named as a new Deputy Sheriff for the county.
~ Sandra Lovelace was also approved to fill a therapist vacancy at the Day Report Center in Ronceverte.
~ The Family Court has opted to move from their long-standing location on South Court Street owing to a rental rate increase. The Sears Kit House next to the Courthouse, available at a more reasonable rate of $12/square foot, is an option being sought by the Family Court to relocate their offices. The Commission agreed to approve the one-year lease agreement from the Hinton Department Company, a local family-owned leasing company. The structure needs some work, Tincher said, but at a total of 2,700 square feet, the Commission approved the Family Court to move in by next month.
~ No date has been set so far for the Greenbrier County Arts and Recreation hotel/motel tax grant applicants to make their appeals for funding to the Commission. Arrangements will be made soon and will likely include some limitations of the number of applicants appearing at one time in the courtroom chamber.