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Braxton Citizens’ News: Braxton Commission in violation of purchasing practices?

An editorial page column by Ed Given, editor of the Braxton Citizens’ News:

SUTTON, W.Va. — Several items have occurred recently pertaining to the Braxton County Commission that I must take issue with. At last Friday’s meeting, it appears they violated state purchasing practices. When Mike Baker presented a single bid on two different items the Commission voted to approve them. Their policy and state code require 3 bids, at least verbal, on items over $2500. The code also requires that any purchase over $25,000 be advertised and bid. Neither practice appeared to be followed.

 
I understand that the county already has the same kind of equipment and wants to maintain uniformity. I also understand that some purchases can circumvent the bidding process if the item is listed as approved by state purchasing. If that was the case, it was never mentioned at Friday’s meeting. Nor I am not sure those circumstances apply to purchases this large.

 
Now I’m not trying to prevent the EMS or 9-1-1 Center from having this equipment, I just want them to procure it in the proper manner.

 
The Director also told the Commissioner that they had moved $100,000 of EMS money to a savings account. That immediately drew a red flag for me. I gave the Commissioners a chance to say something but finally had to speak up and say that the EMS Board was solely an advisory group and has no power to take such action. That’s not the first time I have expounded on that topic.

 

The Commission changed the format of the EMS some years ago and took direct control of the ambulance service. Since that time I have pointed out that all purchases must go through the Commission and that all other county personnel policies that apply to county employees apply to EMS workers. If I had a dime for every time I had discussed that with the Commissioners and others directly involved, I could take a vacation.
I have been reviewing the upcoming budget in my spare time. Unfortunately, recently I haven’t had much of that so the article I planned to expound on what will change from this year to next has not made it to paper yet. I did notice two items of major interest.

 

First the Commission has proposed a pay raise for county employees. That’s great, it’s been a long time since an across the board pay raise was granted and it’s long overdue.

 

The second item pertaining to pay has had just the opposite effect on me. The Commissioners are also proposing a pay raise for elected officials. State code allows for such action, though it is quite rare in this county.

 

The proposal has to be approved by the state and I don’t think that has happened, yet. I find it rather disturbing that the Commission would even propose a rate increase for themselves and other elected officials. Particularly at this time.

 

Taxpayers are being hammered hard with increases in their property taxes. It is a known fact that those tax increases will move Braxton up a class in the size of counties which controls the pay scale for elected officials. The elected officials in this county are poised to see their pay increase next year just because of that change. Then there is always the possibility that the Legislature will give elected official even more money. The Association of Counties always tries to get pay raises for elected offices during the legislative sessions so that could mean an even bigger jump. Regardless, those elected to office will get a pay raise next year. If the state tax department doesn’t shoot it down, they have also given themselves one this year.

 

Those raises are substantial particularly when added together. I’ll be looking at the exact amounts in the coming weeks. With the needs in this county and the cuts that various agencies and groups have experienced in recent years, I think the money could be better used than lining the pockets of those we elect to office.

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