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Commissioners approve raises, hear towing complaints

RAISES APPROVED, TOWING DISCUSSED — The Brooke County Commission Tuesday approved an across the board raise for its employees and heard complaints from two local towing businesses. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission Tuesday approved a raise for all county employees and heard complaints from two local towing businesses regarding the county’s use of their services.

Fred Marino, owner of Al’s Auto Services, told the commissioners he plans to close his 63-year-old business, in large part because of money he lost from call-outs after other towing services were added to the rotation list used by the county’s emergency 911 center.

Marino said there once were three towing services on the county’s call-out list, there now are five and a sixth could be added.

He and Clyde Jordan of C.J.’s Towing, said it’s unfair for the rotation to include two towing services not based in the county.

“I feel our money should stay within our county,” Jordan said, adding, “We’re losing money every day when they’re down here.”

Marino said it costs him about $13,000 per year to be insured as a towing service.

State law requires towing services to be insured and possess specific equipment and facilities, including storage buildings and salvage yards for disabled vehicles.

It also calls for any county commission or municipality operating an emergency 911 center “to establish a policy that provides for the most prompt, fair, equitable and effective response to requests or dispatches for emergency towing services.”

The county commissioners said the policy had been set by the county’s sheriffs until former Sheriff Larry Palmer asked them to adopt one. They said when Rich Beatty entered the office, he took it over.

Beatty couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.

When the question of using out-of-county towing services arose earlier, he said two Weirton-based towing services have equipment for towing heavy vehicles and it seemed unfair to limit their calls to only those situations.

In most cases, and especially when an accident isn’t under investigation by law enforcement, the owner of a damaged vehicle may have it towed by whatever business he or she chooses.

Commission President A.J. Thomas said the county shouldn’t favor one towing service over another.

He told Marino and Jordan, “I think it would be a good idea for us to sit down together and discuss this.”

The commissioners expressed regret over Marino’s announcement he planned to close his business.

In other business, they announced that effective Oct. 1, about 85 full-time personnel and about 45 part-time staff will receive an hourly raise of 50 cents.

County Commissioner Tim Ennis said the raises will bring wage hikes for county employees to a total of about $9,3000 within the last three years but he can recall when they trailed many other employees.

“When I started as commissioner in 2012, there were full-time employees making $14,000 per year. We’ve made it much better, so people can make an affordable living,” said Ennis.

Commissioners Thomas, Ennis and Stacey Wise said while benefits offered to the employees are very good, the county is fortunate to have a loyal, hard-working personnel.

“We really are blessed with a dedicated workforce. They deserve this increase, and we are happy to give it,” said Thomas.

The Rev. Brian Knight asked the commission to compare the county’s pay scale to that of other neighboring counties, adding, “When we lose people, we usually lose them to other counties.”

Also on Tuesday, the commission accepted a bid of $22,590 for 18 ballistic vests for the sheriff’s department.

Submitted by 10-42 Tactical of Wheeling, the bid was higher than one for $19,566 submitted by Red Diamond Uniform and Police Supply of Youngstown, but it included an undercarrier vest that can be worn over a shirt that was included in the bid specifications.

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