Insurance glitch nearly leaves PMH without a net
The Pocahontas County Commission clearly owns Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, but who owns the contents of the building? And the ambulances?
Those questions were answered last Wednesday morning after a lengthy Tuesday night meeting when PMH administrator Barbara Lay told commissioners the county's new insurance company, the West Virginia Risk Pool would not insure the hospital's contents-an insurance term called inland marine-or the two ambulances stationed there.
Commissioner Martin Saffer said Wednesday morning the Risk Pool would indeed insure all the hospital's assets, including the ambulances.
The agent, Steve Rawlins, who sold the county the policy was vehement Tuesday evening that the ambulances in particular did not fall under the policy because they are titled to PMH. Rawlins said PMH has its own FEIN, its own budget and board of directors and buys its own equipment without input from the county commission, although county commission president David Fleming sits on the board.
At 8 o'clock on a Tuesday night is no time to try to buy a policy, but commissioners did get Nationwide Insurance Agent and PMH board member Freda Jackson to attend the meeting. Jackson's company formerly insured the county through the Board of Risk Management. Jackson said her company had always paid claims on hospital property and ambulances without question.
Saffer was appreciative of Jackson's commitment, and said it was the mark of buying from a local company. The Risk Pool is based in Roanoke, Virginia, and has more than 30 of the state's 55 counties in its conglomerate.
Commissioners left their meeting Tuesday with the idea they might have two choices: pay the Risk Pool premiums for a year and continue coverage with the Board of Risk Management that would let PMH stay under the county's umbrella or transfer the titles of all the inland marine in PMH to the county.
By Wednesday, Saffer contracted Michelle Grinberg with Flaherty Sensabaugh and Bonasso in Charleston. Grinberg has property in Pocahontas County, Saffer said, and is handling the transfer of Boone County's hospital to a private organization.
Saffer said Grinberg told him that PMH is owned in total by the Pocahontas County Commission, information which fueled Saffer's next conversaton-with Chris Carey, of the Risk Pool.
Carey agreed that the commission and his company had a misunderstanding, Saffer said, and that all of PMH's inland marine would be covered by his company.
Saffer said he didn't believe the addition would cause any increase in premiums for this fiscal year.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕhired Shawn Dunbrack in the dual role of Director of the Office of Emergency Services and 9-1-1 Director. Dunbrack met with commissioners in a brief executive session. Dunbrack said several counties have one person doing both jobs. Dunbrack had the vocal support of Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith, as well as the written support of Fred Burns, Jr., former Marlinton Fire Chief.
ﾕheard from Doug Mackenzie about the progress of 9-1-1 Mapping and Addressing. Mackenzie said the county is ready for Phase II of the project, a published road data base, which will take eight weeks at a cost of about $27,000.
ﾕhired Kenneth Schoolcraft for a maintenance position.
ﾕread a written report from engineer Bill Swecker, who has been overseeing the work at East Fork Industrial Park. Leftover sludge from the tanning operation at Howes Leather Company is now contained in a large pond, which is ready for the final layer of dirt and grass seed. Asbestos has been removed from a building that commissioners had placed on bid for removal.
ﾕannounced that the county would have a $222,000 carryover that would have been a half a million dollar loss if not for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes from the federal government for more than $700,000. PILT was slated for the federal budget chopping block for the next fiscal year. Commissioners did not know if Congress had reauthorized PILT payments, which reimburse counties for lost tax dollars due to federal land ownership, for next fiscal year.
ﾕauthorized Sheriff David Jonese to pick up county-owned cages from Last Chance Animal Shelter. Saffer was opposed.
The commission will meet again in regular session Thursday, August 9, at 8:30 a.m.
Pamela Pritt may be contacted at pepritt@pocahon tastimes.com