The state better be glad it’s not Russian mobsters to which it owes that $22,611.
By now, a serious crime or two would probably be under investigation if it was.
Instead, that $22,611 is owed to the Preston County Commission, which the only thing it minces are words, but not so much lately.
Since at least January, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has been holding that money hostage.
That’s when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent funds to the state to reimburse Preston for cleanup work following Hurricane Sandy. That’s right, Hurricane Sandy which nearly six years ago plunged Preston County into the dark for weeks and blocked roads for miles with fallen trees and power lines.
Not to mention dropping a ton of snow on everything to stymie efforts at restoring any chance of a quick turn-around.
To FEMA and the state credit, Preston County has received nearly $68,000 of the $90,587 owed it for paying local contractors to clear the roads of storm debris. However, the state continues to resist paying off the balance.
And Preston County has certainly not received the balance of those funds for lack of trying.
The county clerk’s office submitted the paperwork twice — with before-and-after photos. The state lost the paperwork the first time.
In May 2017, the director of Homeland Security told Preston’s county clerk his office anticipated FEMA processing the closeout in June 2017. Six months later FEMA approved everything and sent the funds to the state, which was to issue a check.
By July, Preston’s clerk got tired of waiting for that $22,611 and decided to invite herself and Preston’s Emergency Management 911 director to a meeting in Charleston with Homeland Security officials. Following that meeting last week she was told the money would be in Kingwood this week.
Then, on Thursday, an email said the process for remitting that $22,611 check to Kingwood could take an additional four to six weeks.
No explanation was forthcoming though one was sought. One county commissioner said he’ll be surprised if that check arrives even then.
This is ridiculous and smacks of bureaucratic incompetence, if not deception. We urge Preston’s legislative representatives to resolve this matter with Homeland Security, today.
There’s no need for threats or menace to get what’s owed Preston County. However, no one, including this newspaper, is going to forget that $22,611.
And we’ve got barrels of ink to remind the state.