The Feb. 26 meeting of the Jackson County Commission was focused primarily on the report of Operation of Emergency Services (OES) Director Walt Smittle.
Smittle presented Commissioners Dick Waybright, Mike Randolph, and Mitch Morrison with the position paper from the West Virginia Emergency Management Council regarding the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The main concerns expressed involved a need for an audit by the West Virginia Legislature, current hiring practices, and proposed legislation.
One piece of legislation that will directly affect the ability to receive grants from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is Senate Bill 579. This bill, if passed without change, by both houses corrects a diversion of funds issue that has prevented the FCC from approving any grants.
Smittle has been focused on completing and submitting five grants to the Division of Homeland Security.
Two of the grants he is requesting be approved with 100 percent funding and no match from the county.
“Homeland Security prioritizes one of them very highly,” he said. “I’ve requested five license plate readers which I think we have an excellent chance of getting. Ravenswood Police Department would get one, Ripley would get two, and the Sheriff’s Department would get two.”
The other grant involves the Greene Center located in Kenna.
“We need a generator there but that didn’t fit any priority last year, but this year it does,” Smittle explained. “But we wanted to make the capabilities and need stronger because the Greene Center has such potential.”
Areas of service the center could be utilized for include a disaster shelter recognized by the American Red Cross, a point of distribution, alternative health facility if needed, and a regional center for a liaison from Homeland Security for continuity of operations.
“To be able to do all these things, you certainly need a generator,” Smittle said. “And I think we have a great chance at this grant getting 100 percent funding.”
The Covid-19 virus, commonly known as the coronavirus, has been a topic of many conference calls for Smittle. He will work with the emergency service director, health department, and sheriff to discuss any steps needed to prepare for possible cases developing.
In other business, commissioners:
• A letter of support and recognition of the capabilities of the Greene Center was approved to be submitted to Ann Greene Parsons and the Jackson County Community Foundation.
• OES submitted the Threat Analysis Information and Risk Analysis to Homeland Security.
• The Commission learned additional grants being prepared by Smittle include a portable message board to warn and direct the public, a Zumro shelter for a communication trailer, and potential implementation of preemptive signaling capabilities for Ripley and Ravenswood traffic signals.
• T-Mobile is close to turning on the Sandyville tower but still waiting to hear from AT&T. (The tower has since been turned on as of Tuesday, March 2, according to Commissioner Mitch Morrison.)
• The library board has received trustee training from the West Virginia Library Commission.
• The Jackson County Airport is attempting to address the issue with trees that are a concern to the FCC.
The commission went into a closed-door executive session, lasting approximately 40 minutes, for the purpose of budgetary issues with the Jackson County Animal Shelter and the OES. No action was taken.
The next regular meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. on March 11, at the Jackson County Courthouse.