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Preston EMS gets first round of CARES funding

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Commission unanimously voted to reimburse the county’s EMS services the cost of workers compensation in 2020 using CARES funding.

In total, $70,036 will be distributed to Union, Terra Alta, KAMP and Bruceton Mills ambulance services after proof is received the 2020 workers compensation was paid. 

The money is the first allocation to the county’s EMS service using CARES funding. Preston County received about $922,000 and several times the commission has discussed spending at least $400,000 to increase the capabilities of the county’s ambulance squads.

There was some confusion between the commissioners about the purpose of the funds but they will not be tied to a specific use, such as paying for future workers’ compensation.

“It was our intent to try to take care of them some way and also the EMS advisory board, I mean, that was one of their recommendations to pay the workers comp and everyone seemed to be of the opinion that was probably a good place to start to give them some relief,” Commission President Don Smith said.

The only other earmarking of the money on Tuesday was in the form of an additional $130 for the county assessor’s office to cover the increased quote for previously approved laptops.

“I have rolled around with an idea in my mind about what I want to allocate to fire departments and I would probably feel pretty confident making a motion to move it forward but what I’m not confident in is what we’re going to continue to do for EMS,” Commissioner Samantha Stone said. “And so I don’t want to overspend in one if we need a certain amount for the other. I think they kind of go hand in hand.”

The commission has multiple other requests for CARES funds, including from county parks and recreation, the volunteer fire departments, and for two additional police cruisers.

A new possibility for CARES money, or possibly money from the American Recovery Plan Act, was put forth Tuesday by Friends of Cheat Executive Director Amanda Pitzer.

Pitzer said over her 10 years with Friends of Cheat she’s asked for a lot of things, but never money — until now. 

Going into 2022 the organization’s budget is projected to double with a total projected revenue of $3.7 million — of which $3 million will be spent on projects, Pitzer said. The organization’s payroll has grown to $317,000 with a sixth full time employee added this year.

“We’re in a really good position to keep implementing these projects with success,” Pitzer said. “And we could use your help to carry some of these over the finish line.”

The first project FOC requested funding for is $12,000 in matching funds for a Cheat River Rail-Trail Trailhead.  The $12,000 local match will unlock an additional $48,000 in funding from the West Virginia Division of Highways. The WVDOH Recreational Trails Program also has contributed $247,500 and FOC has contributed $37,500 to the project.

The trail head is also being funded with $750,000 from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the total estimated cost is $997,500 according to a handout provided by FOC.

“This is part of our larger rail-trail project, an 8 mile rail-trail that’s going to be along the Cheat River between Rowlesburg and Kingwood. And the trailhead is a piece of property that we own, the former Preston Cycle preparation plant,” Associate Director Owen Mulkeen said.

The project has already been greenlit — environmental due diligence has been done and the notice to proceed has been issued, according to the handout.

Smith said, in his opinion, a million dollar project for $12,000 seemed like a good bang for the buck. 

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