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Mon EMS prepares to execute improvement plans with new levy revenue

Forest Weyen (Mon EMS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –  Collections for the excess EMS levy passed by Monongalia County voters last November will begin in July.

The levy is projected to bring in $17.8 million over four years to improve readiness, emergency infrastructure and pay for first responders.

Mon EMS Executive Director Forest Weyen said an immediate priority will be to establish more permanent staging facilities for the ambulance fleet. The facilities have to keep the ambulance and critical supplies from freezing in the winter and overheating during the hot summer months. Weyen said they are reviewing call data to ensure that facilities are placed in the most needed areas.

“My goal is that a couple of those places we have where ambulances sit out in carports—I’d really like to get those in garages first and then start working on the western end,” Weyen said.

Once the ambulance fleet is housed, efforts to improve facilities on the western end of the county will be the next priority. Weyen said they use a vehicle bay at the Blacksville Volunteer Fire Department that is adequate. But a more permanent facility could support extended operations and reduce response times in the area.

“We need places where crews can adequately and efficiently clean and disinfect equipment, wash soiled clothes, have a place to do their proper paperwork, have a place for clean supplies, and have a place for an ambulance out of the weather,” Weyen said.

Weyen said increasing wages was a priority. Low wages have been a major factor in many current emergency workers leaving the profession or leaving for another department for higher pay. Investing that money will include a strong consideration for rural areas of the county in an effort to improve response times and available services.

“The Clinton District, Cheat Lake, Blacksville, and Wadestown,” Weyen said. “It costs money to leave those people out in those areas and make sure they have services, so some of the levy will go to supplement those salaries.”

Like everything else, the cost of an ambulance is no longer recognizable post-pandemic. Weyen said the price per ambulance has gone from about $180,000 to the current price of $300,000 or more. The ambulances travel hundreds of thousands of miles annually, so every year the fleet has to be evaluated and some have to be replaced.

“We buy an average of four or five ambulances a year,” Weyen said. “So, you can see how quickly that adds up for the miles and wear and tear we put on these ambulances, and we have to be smart and do a good job to be good stewards of the money.”

Weyen said they completed their first annual report detailing operations and expenses last year. In the future, Weyen said that information will be tabulated and released to the public each year.  Copies of the 2022 report are available at the Mon EMS at 801 J.D. Anderson Drive and online.

“It encapsulates everything we did in 2022,” Weyen said. “We have our financial statements in there; we have all of that information in there, and we’re going to be very transparent and open about the system we’re going to build for Monongalia County.”

In the first year, homeowners will pay an additional 4.66 cents on every $100 of assessed value, and rental property owners will pay 9.32 cents on every $100 of assessed value.

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