CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new contract will give those with the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, based in Beckley, one year to prove the value of the Courtesy Patrol — the roadside assistance welfare-to-work program focused on the state’s highways.
The Citizens Conservation Corps, which has operated the Courtesy Patrol since 1998, outbid another company for the contract valued at $3.1 million. The new contract, which was awarded this week, is several hundred thousand dollars less than the current contract which runs through June 30.
During a special session earlier this month, the Legislature changed how the Courtesy Patrol is funded after initially leaving money for the Courtesy Patrol completely out of the state budget.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall (R-Putnam, 04), though, said that funding is in danger of being eliminated altogether.
“I even think the people who advocate for the Courtesy Patrol believe that the days are numbered,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall (R-Putnam, 04). “But it’s not like, let’s just cut them off. Let’s make sure that we’re not getting rid of something that may actually save a life or do something for somebody that’s in dire straits out there.”
Lottery money has funded the Courtesy Patrol for decades but, as the state budget gets tighter, there’s been a push to put that money to use elsewhere to help tourism. “I would lean toward doing the statewide promotion, but I wouldn’t do that to the detriment of giving the Courtesy Patrol a fair chance,” Hall said of the possible redirection.
As part of the contract, the Courtesy Patrol will have to operate 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The current operating hours are from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Critics have argued such roadside assistance is not as necessary these days as in the past.
“Newer cars have this On-Star thing, (there are) cell phones, AAA — I’m a member of AAA — a lot of people who have insurance policies, a part of their policy provisions is an 800 number to call if you need road service,” said Hall.
Questions have also been raised about the large salaries some executives within the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia — the contractor which operates a total of five non-profit organizations — are paid. For example, Robert Martin, the executive director of the tax-exempt group, made $248,330 during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
State officials have said they have no authority to set salaries for such non-profit organizations.
Hall was a guest on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
The new Courtesy Patrol contract will take effect on July 1.