Ambulance hours, park grant before Brooke commission

WELLSBURG – Planned cuts to hours for county ambulance personnel and a grant sought for improvements to the swimming pool at Brooke Hills Park were among issues discussed by the Brooke County Commission on Tuesday.

The commission met in executive session with Bob Fowler, director of the county’s ambulance service, and several ambulance staff members to discuss plans to reduce hours worked.

The commission recently agreed to hire six part-time staffers to reduce the risk of being required to provide insurance coverage for staffers who work 30 hours a week.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers must provide insurance coverage for employees who work 30 hours a week, something the county can’t afford, said Commission President Tim Ennis.

It would cost the county about $144,000 to $400,000 per year to provide individual or family coverage for its 20 part-time employees.

Called for comment, Fowler said he couldn’t talk about the discussion during executive session, but he would confirm he has staff members who are concerned about their hours being lowered.

“I have eight part-time staffers who work over the Obamacare level and rely on their jobs, though it is the second job for some,” he said.

Fowler said pay for ambulance personnel is low, with emergency medical technicians receiving $7 to $8 per hour, while they are required to undergo about 24 to 50 hours of training per year.

Ennis said the commission doesn’t like being hampered by the 30-hour rule. He said it doesn’t want that to be a consideration when calling out staff members to respond during a crisis.

“We don’t want to get to a point where we have to cut services because we’re trying to comply with something we have no control over,” he said.

Ennis said the commission arranged to meet in executive session with the ambulance staff and Jonette Lazasz of CareLink, a health insurance broker, to discuss the issue.

He said the commission learned several things, including there are proposed amendments to the Affordable Care Act that may offer some relief.

Ennis said he’s hopeful a better solution can be found.

In other matters, the commission approved an application by the Brooke Hills Park board for a $100,000 federal Land and Water Conservation Grant for the park’s swimming pool.

Park Manager Janice McFadden said improvements eyed for the 40-year-old pool include heating, handicap-accessible access and a water slide.

If the full amount of the grant is approved, the park board would match it with $100,000.

In recent years the board has received $750,000 for leasing part of the park for natural gas drilling and 18 percent of royalties on gas produced from the site. Other royalties go to descendants of the Gist family, who donated their land for the park.

The park board has received two royalty checks in the amounts of $70,000 and $18,000.

McFadden said the Friends of Brooke Hills Park, a newly formed fundraising arm of the board, has secured a $6,500 grant for a new sewage pump at the park and other funds for a chairlift for the pool.

The commission also:

Signed a resolution supporting an additional $100,000 to widen the intersection of state Route 2 and 22nd Street in Wellsburg, install a traffic signal and alter signals north and south of the intersection. The changes are intended to ease the flow of truck traffic to the new warehouse facility built by Eagle Manufacturing, and the money will come from the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s industrial access fund.

Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne told the commission bids for the work came in over the $325,000 in state funds allocated for it.

Reappointed Vicky Gallo to the county’s board of health and John Casinelli to the park board. There still are vacancies on the park board, which meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month. Letters of interest should be submitted to the office of County Clerk Sylvia Benzo.

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