The Putnam County Commission meeting of April 11th was dominated by discussion and review of the county Towing Policy for emergency calls. The Commission previously reviewed the policy on March 14 and did not act to change it. County attorney Larry Frye stated that the policy was placed on the April 11th agenda for review because complaints had been received concerning the rates which have been charged.
The first review followed a request from Sheriff Bobby Eggleton at the February 28 commission meeting that the one-year-in-business requirement be removed. Eggleton stated he had been told that there was a company which met all other requirements and eliminating the one-year requirement would allow for quicker responses to emergency calls.
The Commission reviewed the policy on March 14. At which time, County Attorney Larry Frye informed the Commission that he had reviewed the policies of 11 different counties and found that 5 had requirements that a towing company be in business for a specified time before becoming eligible to respond to emergency calls; six did not. During the review, Commissioner Deweese stated that Chris Reed (the owner of Hurricane Wrecker) told him on the day prior to Eggleton’s request for a policy review (February 27) that he (Reed) had closed on the old truck stop property on Route 817 with the intent of locating a truck recovery facility there. Deweese said that he did not know the projected completion time but that the facility’s location should allow for quicker response times in that area. Commissioner Ellis stated that there was a reason for the one-year policy. It required a towing company to make an investment. A company should not be allowed to simply move in and take business from companies that had invested in the county.
The present policy, in addition to the one-year requirement, states that Putnam County shall have two districts and that there will be one towing company per district if available. The towing company must meet certain vehicle storage requirements.
Currently, Hurricane Wrecker is the only towing company which is available in the county to respond to emergency calls. It responds to emergency calls in both districts. There are other towing companies which have been in business within the county for more than one year but none of those companies meet Public Service Commission vehicle storage requirements.
The April 11 towing policy review revealed names and other information which had not been previously disclosed. Tymrk Towing is the company which would immediately benefit from the policy change. Tymrk has a rent/lease agreement with the owner(s) of C&G Towing property on Route 817 near the Buffalo Bridge. The Public Service Commission has received complaints concerning rates charged by both Tymrk and Hurricane Wrecker. Tymrk is the subject of 31 complaints over a period of 13 years while 6 over 15 years have been registered against Hurricane Wrecker.
Brad Wiseman of Liberty and Kimberly Humphreys of Fraziers Bottom argued that Hurricane Wrecker was not in compliance with the policy as written and that the Commission has given the company a monopoly. Chris Reed informed the Commission that Hurricane Wrecker’s required building in Fraziers Bottom should be in full operation by early fall.
The review included an account of the history which led to the establishment of Putnam’s towing policy. The one-year-in-business requirement was seen as need to prevent a repeat of history. Ellis stated that the continuation of the current policy would not preclude Tymrk from providing emergency call response in the future. Deweese stated his opposition to the policy change.
In other business, special recognition was given to Deputies David Dolin, Keegan Mullins, and James Chandler. Dolin was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and Mullins and Chandler to Corporal.
The Commission approved the submission to the WV PSC of a proposed deed by which the county would purchase a building owned by Putnam PSD. Upon PSC approval the county can purchase a building appraised at $552,800 for the sum of $287,500. Putnam PSD advertised the property and received a single bid of $100,000 which the PSD rejected. PSC approval is necessary for property transfers of this nature. The building could serve as a secondary 911 center in the event that an electric power outage would take the center in Winfield out of service.
The Commission approved a grant application for voting equipment of $70,705 which requires a 15% match.
Commissioner Deweese introduced a motion to appoint Adam Sigman to the Planning Commission to replace Jason Asbury. The motion failed for lack of a second. A like motion by Deweese at the March 28, 2023 meeting also failed for lack of a second.
The next regular Commission meeting is Tuesday, April 25.