Commission creates Wood County Fire Board

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to form a Wood County Fire Board.

The commissioners also named three firefighters to represent the Wood County Volunteer Fire Departments on the newly created board. Those members, who were nominated earlier by the firefighters association, are K.C. Linder, Washington Bottom Volunteer Fire Department; Vienna Fire Chief Steve Scholl, and Terry Hefner, Waverly VFD.

Also Thursday, commissioners named one of their own, Steve Gainer, a former Parkersburg Fire Department chief, as their liaison to the new board.

Commissioner Blair Couch said the commissioners were having difficulty locating one private citizen from each of the three magisterial districts they represent to serve on the board and encouraged anyone interested to contact the commission or county administrator Marty Seufer, at 304-424-1976.

By code, the seven-member fire board is to consist of three representatives from the fire departments, three private citizens appointed by the county commission and one commissioner. The commissioners agreed earlier they would each nominate one person from the magisterial districts they represent to serve as their appointees.

“The members we appoint are not to have any association with the county or an existing fire department. We have had some individuals who expressed an interest in serving on the board but had conflicts because of those contacts. Others I contacted declined to serve. Hopefully, we will get some other people to come forward who are qualified and interested in serving,” Couch said.

The commission continued the matter of naming the three remaining board appointees until June 23.

Commission President Wayne Dunn noted the commissioners earlier decided to create the board but had not taken official action to do so until Thursday’s vote.

“The uncertainty of funding over a period of time was raised and this will make it easier to have a more ongoing source of funding for these vital services that are provided to our residents,” Dunn said of the board’s creation.

The board has the authority to petition the county commission for a fire fee.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton earlier advised the commissioners code provides the procedure for such a fee. The process would start with the filing of a petition with the signatures of 10 percent of the qualified voters. The petition would then be presented to the clerk directing the county commission to impose such a fee. Public notice must be published of the proposal.

If 30 percent of the qualified voters file a petition in opposition within 45 days of the publication, the fee cannot be effective until it is ratified by a majority of the voters, according to state code.

The county commission is required to provide fire protection services, which are designated to the county’s 10 volunteer fire departments.

The county commission provides $17,000 annually for each of the 10 volunteer fire departments; $6,000 to the Wood County Firefighters Association for fire school and an additional $22,000 a year for life insurance for the firefighters.