Berkeley fire, EMS volunteers voice concerns

Berkeley fire, EMS volunteers voice concerns

MARTINSBURG –West Virginia legislators heard Berkeley County residents’ questions and concerns about their local firefighting and emergency services department at the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department’s Main Station Wednesday night as part of a statewide tour held this week.

Representing the Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services of the West Virginia Legislature, Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, served as moderator of the discussion meeting, which drew an estimated 50 attendees.

Local legislators, and city council members in attendance included Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley; Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson; Delegate Mike Folk, R-Berkeley; Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley; Delegate Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley; Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley County; Debra McLaughlin, Circuit Court Judge for Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties; Berkeley County Council president Doug Copenhaver, Berkeley County Councilman Dan Dulyea and Berkeley County Administrator Alan Davis.

“We need to hear your hearts, as much as anything,” Boso said. “We need to hear the problems that you’re facing on a day-to-day basis.

The roughly two-hour discussion was divided into a handful of topics including recruiting, funding, health, workers compensation, training and retirement packages.

To recruit new fire and EMS volunteers, several attendees suggested creating a form of monetary incentive, including a state government tax incentive or tax break.

Sen. Blair suggested the committee when it returns to Charleston adopt a resolution to create a standing committee on fire and EMS for the Legislature to address during the next 60-day session

Berkeley Council Council President Doug Copenhaver said fire and EMS volunteers face a more difficult time than they have in the past.

“Today’s a different time,” Copenhaver said. “I think we’re asking volunteers to do a full time job.”

Eddie Gochenour, director of Berkeley County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Berkeley County faces additional pressure as the fastest growing county in the state.

“These guys aren’t getting anything,” Gochenour said. “They’re running around like their ass is on fire and they cannot keep up.”

Boso said the committee would take citizens’ comments back to Charleston.

“When we get back to Charleston, we can begin looking at legislation and finding out where the problem areas are, in order to get many of the topics into this current legislative session as we accept charges in 2018, “ Boso said.

Staff writer Jim McConville can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 215, or Twitter@jmcconvilleJN.