NEW CUMBERLAND - Hancock County commissioners say they will help the New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department purchase a new truck, but there may be some strings attached to the assistance.
Commissioners said Thursday that state law prohibits them from making loans but that they will give the fire department $50,000 as a grant. The money most likely will come from the commissioners' special projects fund, Commissioner Jeff Davis said.
"I would consider this to be a bit of an emergency," he said. "We have a situation we need to address, to clear up the uncertainties out there."
The fire department lost the use of its 1997 Spartan Metro Star pumper in January following a fatal accident on state Route 8. The truck was responding northbound to a report of a chimney fire, when it was struck by a southbound car carrying three Oak Glen High School students who had just left a basketball game.
All three students were killed, and two firefighters were injured.
The car the teenagers were riding in was totaled, while the fire truck sustained serious damage, especially to the front, right front quarter panel and undercarriage, according to the Hancock County Sheriff's Department accident report.
The fire department is now down to one pumper and is borrowing another one from the Newell Volunteer Fire Department until it replaces the one damaged in the accident.
In May, assistant fire Chief Chad Lamp, president of the New Manchester VFD, wrote to commissioners, asking them for a loan of $50,000. Lamp said the purchase of a new truck would be a "near impossibility" without the county's help.
Commissioners tabled the request until Thursday, when they agreed to offer the financial assistance in the form of a $50,000 grant. They also left the door open to some form of repayment.
"We can sit down with the fire department and see if they have the ability to pay it back or forego the annual allotment," Davis said.
All seven volunteer fire departments in Hancock County get an annual allotment of $44,000 from commissioners' portion of limited video lottery proceeds, Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.
Lamp reacted positively to the commissioners' offer of assistance. "It sounds like we're getting the money either way, regardless of how it comes to us, which is certainly good news because the truck's already ordered," he said.
The fire department membership has decided to replace the truck by reusing the body, water tank and water pump and buying a new cab and chassis, Lamp said. The truck is on order from a company in Pennsylvania, but it will take five to six months to do the necessary remounting work, he said.
Total cost of the project is expected to be $200,000, Lamp said, noting that a brand new truck would cost the department twice that amount.
Davis said county commissions may not make loans that can burden future commissions. "You can't obligate future county commissions to debts," he said.
Also Thursday, commissioners:
* Authorized Robert Vidas, executive director of the county's Office of Technology and Communications, to develop a plan for licensing dog breeders. West Virginia counties may now license dog breeders pursuant to a law passed by the West Virginia legislature last year.
Vidas said there are two, possibly three, dog breeders in the county. "It's a humane action, to make sure that if people are breeding dogs ... they're not puppy mills," he said.
* Approved an agreement with the Hancock County Sheriff's Department and Hancock County Schools for the placement of prevention resource officers in Allison, New Manchester and Weirton Elementary schools.
* Agreed to pay $3,800 for repairs to Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Martin Gaughan's courtroom.
* Hired Zachary Tate to the Hancock County Sheriff's Reserves.
* Approved the purchase of $800 in items for the sheriff's department's Special Response Team.
* Reappointed Phil Rujak to the Hancock County Board of Health.
* Reappointed Nancy Kowalski to the Northern Panhandle Workforce Investment Board of directors.
* Approved the delinquent tax list for the 2013 tax year.
* Awarded the next low bid for grass cutting package No. 3 to Richard Soplinski, of Lawn Barber, at a pro-rated amount of $5,992.