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Friday, Feb. 12, 1999

Harrison EMS now bringing in more money

by Troy Graham

    The Harrison County Emergency Squad, which has been battling to stay out of bankruptcy for more than a month, has $65,000 in bills, but has begun making lucrative non-emergency transports. The transports "are a good way to generate revenue for the squad," said squad Director Don Scott during a Thursday night board meeting.
    The squad has been making the transports since a January meeting when the board, which includes the three Harrison County Commissioners, told Scott to aggressively pursue the transports. Non-emergency transports involve moving convalescent patients. The Harrison County squad has been focusing mainly on transporting patients between United Hospital Center and Ruby Memorial Hospital because payment is virtually guaranteed, Scott said.
    But it was clear to the board that costs must be cut in order to begin paying off some of the squad's $65,000 in bills. The squad has been threatened with having its services cut off from a variety of creditors, including its billing service. Board members discussed cost-cutting measures, from eliminating some computers and telephone services to buying cheaper gasoline from the board of education's fuel farm. "Obviously there's going to have to be some innovative things happening as far as expenditures are concerned," said Commissioner Roger Diaz.
    The squad's board announced that it was nearly bankrupt in December and that it had an offer from for-profit ambulance carrier Jan-Care to buy out the squad. The board, at the urging of the county commission, turned down the offer.
Two weeks later the commission had to subsidize the squad's payroll, and it asked the three commission-appointed members of the board to step down. The three commissioners then took their places to take a more hands-on approach to the problem.
All squad purchases must now go through the board, Diaz said Thursday. "Until we get out of this situation nobody spends anything without board approval," he said. "I'm talking about five dollars."

Clarksburg police, newly unionized, want to talk pay

by James Fisher

    Police union officials want to sit down and discuss pay for police officers even though Clarksburg city officials say pay increases are usually given across the board and not to one particular department. The Clarksburg Police Department on Thursday was officially chartered as Local 119 of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO. The unionization is an effort for the officers to have one voice when addressing problems or concerns of the department, said Local 119 President Robert Matheny.
    "There has never been an instance that I know of that the police or fire department alone has been given raises," Clarksburg City Manager Percy Ashcraft said Thursday. "The practices of the past have been that any cost-of-living increases given were given to every employee."
    However, Ashcraft said the city administration is willing to sit down and talk about "any proposal they want to bring to the table." He said pay is a very important issue for police officers and firefighters. "They have very high-risk jobs and we try to provide a fair compensation," he said.
    Although Clarksburg police have one of the lowest base salaries in the area, Ashcraft said other benefits more than make up for cash deficiencies. Officers can take their vehicles home, don't have to pay in to their health insurance and the city contributes annually to the pension fund, Ashcraft said. All these things should be counted in the total package, he said.
Another key issue the union wants to address is the steady loss of manpower over the past few years and the decision to cut the positions vacated by attrition.
    Union officials do not have a specific number of officers they would like to see hired, but Matheny said a committee has been formed to study the issue. "I can say this, if you have a wreck on (U.S.) 50, a fight in North View and a domestic in Stealey, that pretty much kills your resources for the shift," he said. "But the calls keep coming in."
    The loss in manpower has been caused by officers leaving the department and retirements, said Chief Raymond Mazza. Although a mass hiring of officers is financially out of the question for the city, Mazza believes that the department will need to grow in the next 5 years. "This is just my personal opinion, but I think the department should set a goal for the next 5 years to be at 45 officers," he said.
    Ashcraft said the decrease in the number of police can be traced to the loss of the federal COPS Grant, which helped small forces hire police officers for special programs. He said the officers hired several years ago under the grant "created what looked like an explosion in manpower." However, he said past administrations did not anticipate matching funds and how the city would continue to fund the officers after the grant money was exhausted. "I'd like to push the force to 40 officers," he said. "I can see us at some point re-evaluating the situation and maybe looking into the COPS grant again."

Water board, city council positions to be filled

by Paul Leakan

    Residents seeking a seat on Clarksburg City Council or the Clarksburg Water Board in the city's June 1, 1999 election soon will be able make their efforts official. Applications for 4-year terms on city council or the water board will be available in City Clerk Annette Wright's office beginning March 1.
    The city clerk's office, located on the second floor of the Municipal Building on 222 West Main St., is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The applications, along with the required $50 filing fee, are due in the city clerk's office between March 1 and March 15.
    At stake in the non-partisan election are three council seats  held by Councilmen Robert "Tom" Flynn, Frank Marino and Mayor Louis Iquinto. The terms of the other four councilmembers, Sam "Zeke" Lopez, Kathy Folio, Terry Greaver and Jim Hunt, are scheduled to expire on June 30, 2001.
    A seat on the Clarksburg Water Board, currently held by Russell Lopez, is also at stake. Whoever fills the position on the Water Board will be joined by Patricia D'Anselmi and Robert Glotfelty.
    According to the city charter, anyone running for city council must be qualified voters of the city and must have been city residents for at least one year prior to their nomination. In addition, applicants must not hold any other public office, except that of notary public or member of the National Guard, naval or military reserve. Applicants also must not be employed by the city in any capacity.
    The same general requirements apply for anyone seeking a position on the Clarksburg Water Board. City council members are paid $2,500 a year, according to the city's finance office. The mayor earns $3,000 a year. Water board members are paid $100 per meeting, with a maximum $3,100 yearly salary. The president of the water board earns the same wages.

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