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Commission to protest PEIA vote

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

The Harrison County Commission might not be able to meet its budget if a rate increase approved by the Public Employees Insurance Agency takes effect in 2002.

The PEIA's board of directors voted Tuesday for a 37 percent premium rate increase for all non-state participants, which includes county and school board employees.

During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners agreed to send a letter of protest to the board concerning the action, said Jim Harris, county administrator.

Commission President Roger Diaz said such a large increase will "wreck the county budget."

The county currently spends about $500,000 annually for PEIA coverage, Harris said. The increase would push that to nearly $900,000. That would amount to about 10 percent of the county's $11 million budget.

But Harris is not convinced the increase will happen, he said. The 2001 Legislature and Gov.-elect Bob Wise could act early next year to revamp the PEIA system, which has a number of financial difficulties, Harris said.

In other action, Harrison County commissioners reviewed details of a loan program from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. The program would allow the county the funds to demolish dilapidated structures.

Under the program, the county could borrow up to $75,000 to purchase property to raze run-down buildings, said Terry Schulte, director of the Planning Commission. The commission would then repay the loan by selling the property

. Officials from several local municipalities have indicated they want to be part of the program too, Schulte said. She plans to have a proposal ready for commissioners to review during their meeting on Thursday.

In other action, commissioners:

n Agreed to repair an elevator in the county correctional center that has been inoperable for six years. The elevator was broken after inmates in the jail stopped up plumbing, causing water to overflow into the control box. At the time, commissioners decided to not repair the elevator because the estimated cost was $30,000.

n Approved a contract for $700 for Central Van Storage to move the county Planning Commission offices from the fifth floor of the courthouse to the first floor of the correctional center building. The planning commission will relocate to space vacated by the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department earlier this year. The new offices will be larger than the current ones.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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