By Mannix Porterfield
State-of-the-art radios are coming to the Beckley Fire Department and all but two of the 13 volunteer units, courtesy of a Department of Homeland Security grant, successfully written by Rhodell Chief Mike Holshouser.
Holshouser advised the Raleigh County Commission in Tuesday’s meeting that the average cost to the fire departments would run about $2,000, payable through their shares of the special fire levy.
Holshouser prepared a grant approved by DHS through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a total of $965,000.
For reasons not provided, Holshouser said he was told that both the Mabscott and Bradley-Prosperity volunteer units showed no interest in getting the new radios.
“I don’t understand that,” said Commissioner Dave Tolliver, a retired Beckley firefighter.
“It really doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand the rationale behind not getting on this grant.”
For three years, Holshouser said he must update FEMA on the use of the radios, after which the units will be owned by the fire departments.
Combined, he pointed out, the 20 percent share to be put up by the fire departments is about $170,000.
Motorola Corp. is furnishing the radios at a 30 percent discount, so in the end, Tolliver noted, some $165,000 will be left over.
Tolliver said he also cannot understand why the Emergency Operations Center 911 wants the commission to provide its share of the cost, since the levy specifically designated that it would get $133,000 in the first year of the five-year levy. Through the remaining four years, that money would go toward the purchase of fire hydrants.
Once the new devices are installed — 91 mobile units for the trucks, and a like number of portable radios — Tolliver said communications would be greatly enhanced.
“With the radios you have now, they’re so old that you can only talk to people within the county,” he said.
“With these new radios, it’s a statewide band. They can talk to anyone if you have a major disaster on the Turnpike. You can talk to Mercer, Fayette and Kanawha counties. You can talk to someone in Wheeling if you want to on these radios. They’re top-notch radios.”
In another matter, Sheriff Steve Tanner was given permission to add two new people to his staff — Brian White, as a sheriff’s deputy, and Josh Humphrey (no relation to County Administrator John Humphrey) to supervise inmates at the new judicial annex.
The commission also approved the annual $25,000 for Theatre West Virginia, which has an annual budget of around $1.2 million.
“They do draw a lot of people to the area,” Commission President John Aliff said.
Commissioners also approved a $50,043.61 contract to TigerDirect Inc., of Miami, Fla., to overhaul the computer system in Tanner’s department.
And, the commission agreed that trick-or-treaters can make their annual rounds on Halloween between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., the same time slot in force in the city of Beckley.