WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County Commission (MCC) is responding to recent news story in which the mayor and fire chief of Gilbert alleged the county has assisted other agencies, but not their town.
In a Feb. 17 story about the Gilbert Town Council meeting, Gilbert Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD) Chief Mike Tolley was quoted as saying that the county commission refused to share the cost of a generator with the GVFD, but purchased a generator for another agency, East Fork Volunteer Fire Department (EFVFD).
In the same story, Mayor Vivian Livingood was quoted as saying, “Sometimes you have to get your community in place regardless of county leadership.”
Records on file in the Mingo County Finance Office show that despite the remarks made by Tolley and Livingood, the MCC has been highly supportive of Gilbert – both projects directly related to the town and fire department as well as community groups active therein.
According to these records, the MCC has contributed $176,625.99 since 2006 to the town of Gilbert, its fire department and other organizations operating in or having ties to the town. The totals on record are as follows:
• Town of Gilbert – $48,500 from 2008 to 2015. Projects include matching funds for a sidewalk grant and financial assistance for events such as Trail Fest, Skirmish on the River and others.
• GVFD – $32,500 from 2006 to 2014. Annual MCC donations to local fire departments were $2,500 during this time, however, records show that in 2009, the GVFD received an additional $9,000 from the MCC to assist with the replacement of the fire station roof and, in 2010, another $5,000 to assist in purchasing bunker gear for GVFD members who had none.
• Gilbert Kiwanis Club – $8,300 from 2010 to 2014
• Gilbert Little League and other youth athletic groups – $19,325.99 from 2007-2014
• STOP Coalition (not for profit addiction prevention and recovery organization) – $68,000 from 2006 to 2014
One of Tolley’s claims is that he approached the MCC and requested that it split the cost of a generator with the GFVD. He alleges that Mingo County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith told him the price was too high, but that the MCC then spent $21,000 to purchase a generator for the East Fork department.
Minutes from the April 1, 2015 MCC regular meeting show that Tolley did come before the commission and tell them that he had obtained one quote in the amount of $36,500 for a 100kw generator and asked the commission to pay half of the cost. Commissioner John Mark Hubbard told Tolley that the he would ask the MCC grant writer to look into possible funding for generator since other facilities were also requesting financial assistance for the same thing.
EFVFD Chief John Hall disputes Tolley’s claim that the MCC gave his department $21,000 to purchase a generator.
“The only generator we have at all is on our truck and cost $600,” Hall said. “We (the department) bought that ourselves.”
There is no record of a $21,000 contribution to the EFVFD ever being made by the MCC.
Angela Sparks, interim director of STOP Coalition, said the county commission has always been a great supporter of the group and its Crossroads Recovery Home.
“The commission has helped us with expansion through materials and labor and has provided Crossroads with a vehicle,” Sparks explained. “That vehicle is used for resident mental and physical health services. That vehicle also opened up access to outside recovery services.
“Mingo County Commission has been a long standing partner of the STOP Coalition and Crossroads Recovery Home, Sparks continued. “Without that support, our organization would not be as successful as it is today.”
Jamie Hatfield, former president of the Gilbert Little League echoed Sparks’ sentiment.
“The Mingo County Commission has always been there to help the little league program out when needed including financially, provided dumpsters when we couldn’t use the school dumpster and portable toilets. I appreciate all they have done for our youth in the county,” Hatfield said.
In addition to the funding contributed to the Town of Gilbert and its related entities, the MCC has also assisted the town by dispatching its maintenance crew to help with everything from repairs to town hall to snow removal to flood cleanup.
In response to the comments attributed to Livingood and Tolley, Hubbard explained that the commission hears all assistance requests put forth by the municipalities and makes contributions on a case by case basis, when funding is available to do so.
“These numbers are why I was so surprised to read the comments made by Mayor Livingood and Chief Tolley,” Hubbard said. “Even when the commission has not been in a position to contribute to Gilbert financially, we have tried to help by offering them manpower and in-kind services.
“The county commission believes whole-heartedly in supporting our municipalities and our fire departments,” Hubbard continued. “We want to help and we have helped. The economic downturn in our county is making it harder and harder to do, but we’re going to continue to try. I just don’t understand leaders in one of our municipalities saying that we haven’t even attempted to help.”