The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 17, 2014

Sanitary Board vehicle spotted at beach

Report could prompt further scrutiny of department policy

The general manager of the Beckley Sanitary Board said its policy on company-issued vehicles may be revisited at next month’s meeting, after an agency vehicle reportedly was spotted in the resort town of Myrtle Beach.

Jeremiah Johnson confirmed that the Sanitary Board was contacted Tuesday by The Charleston Gazette, which reportedly has video footage of a Beckley Sanitary Board vehicle in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“Several management employees are issued company vehicles, which do have city plates, and are allowed to be used for personal use,” Johnson said. “I think the policy speaks for itself.”

Johnson said that, in an effort to provide a competitive benefits package for its employees, a company vehicle is offered as an incentive to several senior management employees.

These company vehicles are considered a “taxable fringe benefit,” and each year, the value of the vehicle usage and any personal mileage is reported as taxable income on each employee’s W2.

In a prepared statement issued to The Charleston Gazette, Mayor Bill O’Brien, chairman of the Beckley Sanitary Board, said the BSB operates wastewater treatment and stormwater facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

“These employees are often required to respond to 24/7 weather events, mechanical failures and disasters that impact our systems in an area that exceeds 25 square miles in the Greater Beckley area,” the statement read.

“The Board has found that the use of company-issued vehicles facilitates more efficient response times and more immediate resolution of the issues that impact our customers and the local water environment.”

As reported previously, the City of Beckley and the Beckley Sanitary Board are two separate entities and finances for each are managed separately.

“We are a stand-alone utility business,” Johnson said. “Any vehicles purchased for the Sanitary Board are paid for through sewer fees.”

Johnson said city attorney Bill File has confirmed that the vehicle use in question is in compliance with IRS regulations.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Johnson added, and said that the issue will probably be discussed at the Sanitary Board’s next scheduled meeting, Aug. 13.

“It provides us an opportunity to evaluate.”

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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