Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston gets $65,000 grant to buy “extreme terrain” rescue vehicle

KINGWOOD — Neither snow, nor brush nor high water will be as great obstacles to Preston emergency services, once the county receives its MuddTrax.

For several years, County OEM/911 Director Duane Hamilton and Assistant Director Justin Wolfe have applied for a grant to buy an “extreme terrain” vehicle. This year the agency received a $65,000 Homeland Security grant to buy a MuddTrax, the first in West Virginia.

“For several years now, we’ve run into some issues … where we get like a big snow, and we’ll have some problems accessing people,” Wolfe said at Monday’s county commission meeting. “We just don’t have the equipment to be able to get in. We’ve always been fortunate to work with local companies, gas company, electric company,” using their Snow Cat equipment to access stranded people.

But, Hamilton noted, the companies are always stretched to the limit during these events too. The MuddTrax is a tracked machine that is amphibious and has been tested in Canada in six feet of snow, Wolfe said. It also has good traction that will be an asset in getting to brush fires and on search and rescue missions.

“So just a wide variety of applications,” he said. “We think this is probably the best one that’s out there for the job that we need to get done.”

The county will pay about $5,500 toward the trailer and maintenance. A caveat of the grant is that Preston must make it available to other counties, if it is needed.

The machines are built in Salt Lake City, and Wolfe went to the factory to see them being built. Preston’s will have some add-ons, including a hard cab on the front and removable soft cab on the back. Each machine is built to order, and they did not know exactly when it will arrive.

Also at the meeting, commissioners:

— reversed an earlier decision to create a special checking account for hotel/motel tax receipts. County Clerk Linda Huggins, who initially agreed with Administrator Shannon Wolfe’s recommendation, said Monday that after checking further, recommended against the change.

The state auditor said the funds must be deposited in the general county fund, and it makes no sense to put them in that fund then write a voucher for the funds and a check to move them to a separate fund.

“There’s just a lot of extra steps,” she said. Huggins said the funds would be just as open to public scrutiny in the general fund as in a special account. The county bookkeeper said she provides a monthly report on the funds to the commission.

— appointed Chris Stone to a three-year term on the Preston County Economic Development Authority board. The vote was 2-0-1, with Commissioner Stone abstaining because Chris Stone is her brother-in-law.