Ohio County Commission Accepts Opioid Settlements, Objects to AEP, Mountaineer Gas Rate Hikes
The Ohio County Commission voted to object to rate hikes by AEP and Mountaineer Gas. Commissioners also accepted opioid settlment agreements with Mylan and Amneal
The Ohio County Commission met today, June 13, in their chambers in the City-Building. Commission President Don Nickerson, Commissioner Randy Wharton, and Commissioner Zachary Abraham, were present at the regular meeting.
New business discussed by the Commission saw important decisions made regarding recent opioid settlement agreements. Commissioners strongly pushed back against proposed rate hikes by AEP and Mountaineer Gas, as well.
Commissioners approved the opioid settlement with Mylan Pharmaceuticals, which sees the company absolve itself of wrongdoing while paying several municipalities in the State of West Virginia a combined $1,995,000, with a yet to be determined amount of funding going to Ohio County.
The Ohio County Commission also approved the opioid settlement with Amneal Pharmaceuticals, with the county receiving $700,000.
The process for receiving funds from various opioid settlements sounds complicated, as described by the Ohio County Commission and county employees. The Attorney General of West Virginia has described the process. In summary, every municipality in the state—counties, cities, towns, and villages—have been split into ‘regions.’ Region 1 consists of Hancock, Brooke, Marshall, and Wetzel Counties, with Ohio County serving as the hub.
Representatives of each municipality in each region must meet and elect a representative to the statewide board, which will decide which projects and programs receive funding from the settlement. The position is unpaid and should be someone competent in substance abuse. Staff described the position as crucial to receive funding, calling the advisory board ‘gatekeepers.’ The deadline to elect a representative is July 17, something which shocked the Commission.
Also discussed were AEP and Mountaineer Gas planned rate increases, something which the Commission was clear in saying was unnecessary. Mountaineer Gas alone has seen rates increase seven times in the past few years, with their most recent increase of 15% approved in December. AEP is asked for a 37% rate increase.
Commission President Nickerson said “businesses have to be responsible,” when talking about the budget shortfalls of the two companies. “People don’t have a lot of options,” Nickerson said of the near monopoly these companies hold on utilities in the area.
A county employee spoke of a Public Service Commission of WV, who conducted a prudency study. The Commission ruled against AEP for failing to find long term agreements for their coal and oil needs, to which Commision President Nickerson said this was a “poor time to put the burden on people,” for their shortcomings.
The Kanawha County Commission has already moved to block AEP from increasing their rates. The Ohio County Commission voted unanimously to voice their opposition to the rate increases. The Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing on August 21 in Wheeling where members of the public can voice their concerns.
Other new business included the approval of $3000 in funding to the Wheeling Creek Watershed Protection Commission for the maintenance of two flood prevention sites on the creek, and the appointment of Chief Reineker of the Clearview Volunteer Fire Department to the Ohio County Fire Board.
Three grants to cover county costs were approved today.
The Stop Violence Against Women (SVAW) grant is a $71,000 federal program with a $16,000 match by the county. For 24 years the Ohio County Commission has used the grant which funds the assistant prosecuting attorney salary, among other things. Filing for the SVAW grant were signed prior to approval to meet a June 12 deadline, and received approval from the Commission unanimously.
The Victims of Crime Assistance (VOCA) 2024 grant application to request $39,000 was approved by the Commission unanimously. This grant funds the Victim Advocacy Program through the county courthouse.
The Ohio County Commission had previously applied for $130,000 through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant program, but was approved for $60,000. The program will help upgrade hardware—including polling books—for the county. The approved grant was accepted unanimously.
A number of community grant applications were approved unanimously. Comm’r Wharton said community grants would be limited to the amount that had been awarded in previous years.
9th Annual Mountaineer Brewfest, August 19 at Heritage Port, received $2500,
Fort Henry Days Revolutionary War reenactment, September 2-3 at Oglebay, received $1500,
American Legion Wheeling Post #1 received $2000 for a June 30th fireworks display, but the Commission alluded to not funding the program moving forward,
Governor Boreman Statue Committee received $1,000,
Wheeling Symphony Orchestra received $3500 for their July 4 'Celebrate America’ concert and fireworks show at Heritage Port,
Wheeling YMCA received $400 for their August 5 Dr Joe Palmer Memorial 5k. Commission President Nickerson abstained from the vote, citing his membership on the YMCA board,
Pinto Challenge, a baseball tournament to be held on July 16 and July 19 at Bethlehem Ballfield, requested funding, but Comm’r Abraham questioned where money would be spent. The motion was tabled,
WVU Extension received $4532 for the Ohio County 4-H camp at Camp Russell from July 5 through July 17,
35th Annual Beast of the East baseball tournament to be held June 29 through July 2 at various area ballfields received $3,000. At its height, the tournament saw 165 teams compete. In 2023, the expected number of teams is 25-30. Previously, Beast of the East saw a significant boost to county revenue in hotel, gas, and restaurant expenses, Commissioners said.
In staff reports the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office said they have moved to 12-hour shifts to assist in filling what they say are vacancies in the department. Currently, there are thirty deputies, with twenty of them patrolling the roads. Comm’r Wharton questioned if these long shifts were a concern for the wellbeing of deputies. Staff from the Sheriff’s Office said the budgeted thirty-two officers is not enough, but that is what they’re working with.
Security for the City-County Building was discussed, which is currently provided by the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office. This arrangement is apparently leading to high overtime pay, something the Sheriff’s Office wishes to remedy by hiring private security.
The City-County Building will be closed June 19 in observance of Juneteenth, and June 20 in observance of WV Day. Most employees will receive a four day weekend.
County staff announced a fireworks show at the Highlands for July 2. 'Wings Over Wheeling' at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport will take place on June 24 from 10 to 4, with vintage planes and a car cruise, as well as food vendors.
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