The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 23, 2013

Members hear emergency preparedness presentation


— Kevin Taylor, director of emergency services for the city of Beckley, joined Common Council Tuesday night to review emergency preparedness from 2012 and how he hopes to improve this year.

Over the past year, Taylor noted that Beckley Ready has greatly helped communications efforts in the city. He also noted focusing on a national preparedness effort, as well as the creation of the Beckley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

After the summer derecho, Taylor said an action report showed that the City Coordination Center was not utilized as it could have been. He has since outlined a plan, including a diagram of the building and a list of who should report and when, in case of an emergency.

In March, the City Coordination Center will take part in an exercise to test notification and response times.

“It’s an opportunity for us to work out the bugs and see what works and what doesn’t,” Taylor said.

Fred Cooper, outreach coordinator for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), came to Council to request further funding for the program.

Last January, Council approved a one-time funding request of $5,000 to Cooper for outreach services.

Cooper said there are still many children in Beckley and Raleigh County without health insurance. He added that since last year, nearly 600 kids in three counties now have insurance who did not have it before.

While Council acknowledged the benefits of this program, several members said they could not justify the city’s taxpayers having to fund this program.

“We appreciate what you’re doing, but I’m not sure it’s up to the city,” Mayor Emmett Pugh said.

Councilman Tom Sopher suggested taking that $5,000 and putting it toward something that children in the area could use for physical activity, such as a new park or swing set.

“CHIP has $1 million in its budget for outreach,” Councilman Chris Hall said. “There is an additional $6 million for administrative costs. I don’t think the city of Beckley should be putting money there.”

Sopher humored Cooper and made a motion to fund the program, but no one even seconded the motion, so it died on the table.

As for new business, Sopher said he would like for the city of Beckley’s website, www.beckley.org, to have a mobile site that would be more accessible for mobile devices and tablets. An IT department representative said they are currently looking into creating a mobile site. Sopher also asked how search engine results for Beckley can be changed to reflect more entertainment events, instead of city and police websites. The IT rep said he will also explore answers to this question.

During public comments, a Vine Street resident came to express his concerns about Sheridan Avenue, litter control, and animal control.

He asked that the speed limit be lowered, guardrails be extended, and additional caution signs be placed on Sheridan Avenue because of the numerous accidents he has seen there.

He also called for the hiring of additional officers to strictly enforce litter and animal control.

“I’m not here as a complaining resident. I greatly care for the city of Beckley.”

Mayor Pugh and Councilman Hall agreed with many of his concerns.

The next Common Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m.