Featured, Government, News

Highlights from Wednesday’s County Commission Meeting, 11/13/2019

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

WELCH, WV – The McDowell County Commission met Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 to discuss the following: 

Resolution in Support of Protecting the UMWA Pension Plan

With Murray Energy announcing its bankruptcy procedures, the pensions of retired miners throughout the region have been on many minds, including the County Commissioners. 

“Michael, do you think we should read this aloud,” asked Commissioner Cecil Patterson. 

“I’d be honored to read it Cecil, I think it’s a good thing,” said Commissioner Michael Brooks  before reading the resolution aloud:

“Resolution in Support of Protecting and Preserving the Pensions and Healthcare for UMWA Plan Beneficiaries. Whereas the bankruptcy of Murray Energy Coal Company coupled with the bankruptcy of most other smaller coal companies will place the UMWA pension fund in jeopardy of becoming insolvent in 2020, which in turn could result in 87,000 retired coal miners and surviving spouses losing their hard-earned pensions as well as healthcare benefits and, Whereas the UMWA pension plan dates to a 1946 sacred promise made to miners and their spouses by President Harry Truman and the UMWA, and Whereas any loss or reduction of benefits would cause irreparable harm to the beneficiaries and deal a devastating blow to the economy of the State of West Virginia. And Whereas, the United States Congress should pass the bipartisan legislation being introduced by Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito which would address and solve the critical issues that confront pension and healthcare funds by fulfilling the 1946 promise to miners and their families. And whereas, coal miners deserve to have their pensions protected as coal has served as the backbone of the United State’s energy supply for 200 years, which has allowed the United States economy to flourish with low cost energy for industry, business and citizens alike. And whereas, coal miners work in one of the most dangerous environments in industry, and their bravery and sacrifice should not be discounted by those who choose to ignore this pension crisis, and whereas the McDowell County Commission calls upon every elected official in West Virginia to take a public stance in supporting the UMWA pension fund and therefore, be it resolved that the McDowell County Commission hereby decrees that the Commission supports Legislation that would preserve and protect the benefits of retired miners and the Commission urges other local governments in West Virginia Legislature to adopt a resolution in support of the same. Be it further resolved that the Commission praises West Virginia’s congressional delegation to work, to pass this legislation and to publicize the importance of the urgent need to protect our coal miners pension and healthcare funds, presented this day. McDowell County Commission.”

Mass Settlement for Opioid Litigation 

The Commissioners had a recent meeting with attorneys to discuss opting out of the mass settlement the County had entered before, citing it was the best choice for the people of McDowell County. 

“Sheriff West was with us when we entered into a mass litigation settlement on the opioid litigation from the devastation of the opioid crisis and what it’s done to the County,” said Patterson. “The advice of the attorney and the Prosecutor at the time was to pull out of this mass settlement because it’s going to settle a United States wide claim. They think it’s best to pull out of that litigation and move more into a State-run litigation.”

“I make the motion that we opt out of it from what we understand from them,” said Commissioner Cody Estep. 

“On the one panel that we were in, if they would settle with us, McDowell County would get like $600 dollars over a twelve month period. I thought they were buying a truck they were financing or something. I think we would be better to opt out of that settlement for our people. I second Cody’s motion.”

It was approved. 

Title Change for 911 Center Employee

Director Teresa VanDyke requested a change of title for 911 Center Employee Tommi Jo Adkins. 

“She has picked up the ball and started running the Terminal Agency Coordinator position, taking care of our teletype,” said VanDyke. “We’ve had to renew our user agreements and a bunch fo different stuff. She’s really took action and stepped up so I’d like to officially give her that Title and position.”

It was approved. 

– Election Printer

The Elections Department of the County Clerk’s Office requested a new printer required by the Secretary of State’s Office. 

“You’ve got to have it,” said Estep. 

“Yeah like Cody said, we’ve got to have it,” said Brooks. 

It was approved. 

Closing Remarks

Commissioner Patterson thanked everyone for coming out and closed the meeting with remarks concerning the higher than expected Regional Jail Bill, totalling $501,751.75. 

“The Jail Bill was up significantly. I don’t know if it’s the Prosecutor’s fault or the Sheriff’s fault,” said Patterson, getting a laugh out of the room. 

“Somebody’s working hard,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brittany Puckett. 

“No it’s a compliment, it was a lot of activity. Nothing anyone did wrong, just a lot of activity. As we live in these communities, we know what those activities are. Your plates are full but I think you’re all doing a great job.” 

Other actions taken during Wednesday’s meeting included: 

– 6 New Hires at Stevens Correctional Facility

– Final Disposition of Sheriff’s Tax Land Sale was approved, to soon be published in The Welch News. 

– Virgil Green was hired as a Peer Recovery Coach with Alternative Sentencing. 

– A Norfolk Southern lease agreement where the former McDowell County Emergency Ambulance Authority building is located was approved for transfer from the MCEAA to the County Commission. 

– An update for Courthouse emergency alarm system was approved. 

– Welch Community Hospital was approved for a lease agreement to create more employee parking space near the facility.