The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 6, 2014

CCCWV seeks extension of Courtesy Patrol contract

Company has been running the service on extensions since July

— Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, the Beckley-based nonprofit that oversees the Courtesy Patrol and eight other nonprofit entities, has asked for an extension of its state contract for two months, following nearly a year of three-month extensions that began with its contract expiration last July.

The Courtesy Patrol contract is let through the Division of Highways, but its funding comes through the Division of Tourism. Money for the roadside service is annually appropriated by the Legislature from Lottery funds. Due to an oversight in the final days of a harried budgetary special session, during which legislators divvied up those dwindling Lottery funds among “buckets,” the Courtesy Patrol was left without funding for the coming fiscal year.

Local legislators believe that funding will be taken care of in a special session before July 1. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has already called for a special session of the Legislature at the end of the May interim session to deal with changes in the minimum wage law.

CCCWV’s latest contract extension requests no increase in the monthly $281,763.75 payments from the state’s Purchasing Division. The life of the contract since its award in 2010 brings total CCCWV income from the Courtesy Patrol to $13,651,424.63.

According to the organization’s financial statement for 2010 that was submitted to the secretary of state’s office in 2012, CCCWV receives $3,131,098 in unrestricted funds and another $350,000 in restricted funds for the Courtesy Patrol program. That makes up 67 percent of the organization’s support, auditors from Hess, Stewart and Campbell noted at the end of the statement.

“Should the Organization no longer administer this program, its ability to continue as a going concern would be questionable,” the audit report said.

In answer to a question about CCCWV’s ability to continue without the Courtesy Patrol, CCCWV’s Courtesy Patrol director Jennifer Douglas had this to say:

“As far as what we would do if we didn’t have the Courtesy Patrol, the CCCWV has operated this program since its revival in November 1998 and it has been recognized as a national model by the U.S. Department of Labor for innovative approaches to job creation and we have impacted the lives of thousands of West Virginia families. It is one of 12 projects that we are proud to have introduced to so many and hope that we can continue to accomplish great things. We believe wholeheartedly and passionately about the work and opportunities we are providing and it is my hope that we can continue to make a difference in the lives we serve through this project.”

The Division of Highways is preparing to accept bids for the service, and Douglas said the organization plans to submit a proposal.

CCCWV’s website touts the CP as a welfare-to-work program, and its mission on its 2011 990 form says it provides job training and opportunities to underprivileged individuals. Douglas said about 75 percent is a current “guesstimate” of the drivers who once received state assistance, but all them have received “some sort of government aid.” CCCWV board president Pat Pinnell said at the company’s genesis in the 1990s every driver was once a welfare recipient.

Drivers start out at minimum wage, and then have the opportunity to move up $1 on the hour, Douglas said. In the organization’s vision, the step up also means a step out.

“They are with us two years or less, and they’re getting job training,” she said. “It’s not permanent employment. We want to transition them to better paying jobs and benefits.”

Douglas said one measurement of the organization’s success rate is the number of former CP drivers who go on to earn $8.50 to $16.75 an hour. She said CCCWV follows up with drivers who have exited the organization and been placed into better means of employment. Previously, the information came from a quarterly report CCCWV was able to obtain from Workforce West Virginia, she said.

 Those better employment annual wages of $17,860 to $34,840 hardly compare with management salaries at CCCWV. Douglas and her boss, CCCWV executive director Robert Martin, both pull six-figure salaries, although Martin’s $248,330 salary does not come from the Courtesy Patrol with CCCWV, Pinnell said.

“Mr. Martin is not paid from any Courtesy Patrol monies at all,” she said. “Bits and pieces of his salary may come from other state contracts.”

Douglas’ salary was $107,500 in 2011.

Pinnell said the board of directors sets the salaries for the “major players,” including Martin and Douglas.

“They are our top individuals and they are responsible for their division,” she said. “We approve a budget and they have to live within (that) budget.”

ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in New York City, shows CCCWV’s total revenues at $5,107,773, less $114,436 investment income, for 2011. Martin signed the document in May 2013. Of that revenue, $534,730 is spent on the organization’s top five salaries, while other salaries and wages total $2,427,061. Auto expenses add up to $137,899, according to CCCWV’s 990 form.

CCCWV has an operating fleet of 32 two-wheel-drive Ford F-150 trucks, including seven spare trucks and four-wheel-drive trucks. Four field supervisors have company trucks, as well, according to Douglas. In addition, she said CCCWV owns other vehicles not associated with the Courtesy Patrol, including 11 trucks, eight SUVs, four dump trucks and one van. Those vehicles are assigned to various regions of the state and in Virginia and Maryland.

Douglas said the vehicles are replaced every 12 to 18 months, and usually have around 250,000 odometer miles. The vehicles are priced based on mileage and Kelly Blue Book values, she said.

“A price is established and we funnel it out to interested parties who want to purchase (them),” she said.

Douglas said from November 1998 through the end of February, the Courtesy Patrol had racked up almost 70 million miles, answered 3 million calls and assisted 282,969 vehicles. CP drivers have delivered babies and administered CPR, she continued. Pinnell said drivers “go through extensive training before they go on the road (and) can be a first responder until an emergency crew can arrive.”

CP drivers can also be a “first responder” for minor vehicle problems like changing tires. Drivers are required to carry gasoline and diesel fuel, one of the higher costs of the program’s operation, at all times, Pinnell said.  

She said the CCCWV board is concerned about response times; thus, CP drivers are situated so they are only 20 minutes from a disabled vehicle in either direction.

“Sometimes, it’s as little as five minutes,” she said.

Douglas said CCCWV has “a lot of small contracts,” both state and federal, as well as contracts with the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

She said CCCWV is the fiscal agent for Twin Branch Adventure Facility in McDowell County, which will eventually tie in with the Hatfields and McCoys Trailhead. CCCWV has “a lot of different grants” in the Twin Branch recreation facilities, she said.

The Appalachian Coal Country Team, which has capacity building training and mobilizing volunteers, was “very much instrumental” in the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative, Douglas said. The ACCT works with Volunteers In Service to America, a Clinton administration initiative, Douglas said. CCCWV was responsible for identifying service projects for the Boy Scouts of America to help complete during their first Jamboree in Fayette County last year.

Pinnell said CCCWV is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the state and has created more than 200,000 jobs. She said last year’s Reaching the Summit Initiative impact totaled about $5 million and more than 300 hours of volunteer service.

She is an unabashed proponent of CCCWV and all its programs.

“I’m a total supporter of CCCWV programs,” Pinnell said. “I’ve been with them for 30 years. It’s grown from nothing to what it is today. Robert, Jennifer, Marie Walker (have been) instrumental (in that). It’s one of the most respected organizations in the country.

“It contributes to the economy and well-being of West Virginia like no other organization can.”

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