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ATV Emergency Response, Cell Coverage and More Discussed by County Commission

By Derek Tyson
The Welch News Editor
WELCH, W.Va. – The McDowell County Commission met Wednesday, December 9th, 2020, discussing ATV accident response equipment, cell tower coverage, and more.

“With the four-wheelers in the county, it’s putting a burden on emergency responders because all the rescues going on,” said Commission President Cecil Patterson.
Jimmy Gianato, representing Kimball Volunteer Fire Department, asked the Commission to consider the purchase of ATV accident response equipment.
“Trying to locate individuals out on the trail system and not on the trail systems has become a real problem for not only our department but quite a few across the county,” said Gianato. “We recently were able, through raising funds and donations, to purchase an ATV that we have utilized quite a bit to go out and perform these rescues. The problem is, if someone gets hurt out there, you have to have some mechanism to transport them back. With these ATVs, there’s not a good way to do that without proper equipment.”
Up for consideration before the Commission was a rescue bed that could safely carry an injured person out of the woods. It could also be adapted to help with forest fire response, according to Gianato.
“I think this is something we’re going to have to look at all across the county because we all know the ATV industry is growing fairly rapidly and the number of calls is increasing,” said Gianato. “One of the biggest challenges is finding these people. When they’re from out of state, they don’t know where they went into the woods and it’s kinda tough to find them. That’s the reason we’ve been trying to work on that cell tower issues, trying to improve cell communications on the trail system.”
The cost of the rescue equipment was approximately $11,000.
“Since that is part of economic development in the County, the same way we bought police cars, is that something that could come out of the infrastructure funds,” said Patterson.
“I think we can but I’ll take a closer look at it before we make a decision,” said Prosecuting Attorney Brittany Puckett.
“And radios as well,” asked Patterson.
“Yes, one thing in particular with COVID is communications is a key thing. Being able to reach the Commissioners and the Health Department when things come up is a real priority. I got you a proposal for radios that work on the statewide radio system,” said Gianato. “One for each Commissioner and one for the office here. That would allow you to monitor what’s going on from about anywhere in the County. We also got the radios back to the health department, we can reach them via radio now.”
The Commissioners motioned to approve the request after the Prosecuting Attorney had time to review the proposals.

Gianato also offered an update on the cell tower situation across McDowell County.
“We met with the consultant you all hired and looked up at the Tower we had planned to use. We think it’s probably the best option,” said Gianato about a site between Welch and Gary. “When I worked at the state, we had a contract for tower steel on a 400-foot tower for about $120,000. It’s almost $500,000 now just for the steel itself.’
“So we think we’re going to be ahead for leasing space for the tower because by the time you acquire the land, get the power built to it, the road, everything you’ve got to do, you’re probably looking at over a million dollars,” continued Gianato. “We can probably lease the space on this tower for a couple thousand dollars a month instead of how long it would take to pay a million dollars. Then when you own the tower, you’ve still got to maintain it, light it, the power bills and everything else. We’re doing a cost analysis on the project now.”
Gianato also said he had received official word that the State had de-obligated the funding previously secured for the cell tower, but that the County could reapply for the grant.
“Any update on the Iaeger Tower,” asked Patterson.
“They’re doing 4G optimization on the network. It was supposed to be on at Thanksgiving, but apparently they ran into some problems,” said Gianato. “All the equipment is installed, now it’s just a matter of them getting it into their network.
“Teresa (Vandyke) told me it should be Friday, if not this week then next week,” said Estep.
“I know people down there will sure appreciate that,” said Patterson.

“It’s strange times here. Everyone in here is wearing a mask and we’ve got loved ones passing away, or we have them sick. As Cody says, it is a Christmas we will remember. Just keep everybody in your prayers. COVID-19 is the real deal guys. Some people it doesn’t affect at all, but for others its just tremendously terrible. I don’t like wearing this mask, but we’re trying to lead by example,” said Patterson. “It’s incredible what our elected officials, staff and just everybody are doing.”
“We’re all family,” said Estep.
“Yes sir, we are at the end of the day. Throw elections and personal agendas out the window, we’re all just trying to get through this.”
Also at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting:

  • James “Boomer” Muncy, Jr., McDowell County’s incoming Sheriff, took his oath of office before the Commission. His term will begin January 1st, 2021.
  • The Commission approved 6 new hires at Steven’s Correctional Facility, as well as welcoming new Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Roberts at the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office.
  • The Commission voted to approve an emergency heat pump replacement at the McDowell County Health Department.
  • The Commission continues to feel the weight of the Regional Jail bill, now at $1,203,306.75.