ROMNEY — “If you hear ambulances are running all over the place, it’s because they are,” Hampshire County Emergency Services Agency Director Brian “Tad” Malcolm told the Hampshire County Commission at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“Mr. Covid is taking a big toll on us,” Malcolm said, noting the county ambulance service had received 522 alerts in the past few months — with the 295 alerts received in August representing an increase of almost 25% over the number received in July, and calls continuing to increase in September. 

In the meantime the average response rate for the county’s remaining 4 volunteer rescue squads has declined to 64%. 

Malcolm pointed out some rescue squads are down to 1-man or 1-woman operations. He added the ambulance service tries to help as much as it can, noting it had sent a driver to work with the Augusta squad recently. 

“They are doing the best they can do. We’re also seeing the same decline in the fire service. Volunteerism is going down,” Malcolm explained. 

The commission responded by calling for an executive session to discuss personnel, with the commissioners later reporting that no decisions had been made. 

The commissioners also received a report from Janette Saville on actions being taken on unpaid bills for the ambulances fees that help support the county ambulance service. 

Unpaid bills are being taken to magistrate’s court, Saville said, and a summons is issued, with the property owner given 21 days to respond. If there is no response, a judgment is made, and the property owner given 21 days to pay. 

If the bill remains unpaid, the county clerk places a lien against the property. 

In other business, the commissioners approved a bid of $282,130 from Harbel Inc., based in Cumberland, for completion and furnishing of the 2nd courtroom that has been under construction in the county judicial center for the past 3 years. 

They also approved a bid of $26,306 to install sound and video systems, received from the Electronic Speciality Co. in Dunbar. 

The 2 bids were the only bids received, though project supervisor Matthew Hott reported reaching out to 11 or 12 contractors. Hott explained most contractors in the area were already busy and the project was too small to attract interest. He was commended by Commission President Brian Eglinger for the effort he had made. 

Commissioner Dave Cannon reported that the county’s Committee on Aging is a $1.6 million operation, saying this was “pretty impressive for a rural county.” 

He has seen the meal service go from delivering 50 hot meals to delivering over a hundred, with each meal costing the service $14, though recipients are asked just to donate what they can. 

He expressed concern about a current shortfall in funds to support the agency, but said he had been told this is normal early in the fiscal year. Much of the support for the committee on aging comes from contributions, along with state and federal funding. 

Cannon also reported that an assistant prosecutor is being hired, after the commission agreed last month to make the salary more competitive. 

Eglinger reported that work on the last piece of the Capon Bridge broadband project would start this week, and work will be visible on the project extending HardyNet from Wardensville up past Capon Springs to Capon Bridge shortly. Work is also under way to bring HardyNet up to Bald Hill. o

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