KEYSER - Lack of emergency access to Keyser's North End, long law enforcement response time from one end of the county to the other, and protection of the water sources that supply Mineral County's municipalities were just some of the topics touched upon this week when the Office of Emergency Management and 911 Center hosted a public meeting to discuss risks and dangers to the county.
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Lack of emergency access to Keyser’s North End, long law enforcement response time from one end of the county to the other, and protection of the water sources that supply Mineral County’s municipalities were just some of the topics touched upon this week when the Office of Emergency Management and 911 Center hosted a public meeting to discuss risks and dangers to the county.
Hosted by OEM director Luke McKenzie, the meeting was one of several steps needed for Mineral County to development a working emergency plan.
McKenzie told the group he had already met with local law enforcement and would be meeting soon with representatives of the fire and EMS community to discuss their thoughts on the issues.
“We want to talk about large scale issues facing the county that would affect large groups of people,” he explained.
Keyser City Council member and North End resident Karol Ashenfelter brought up the lack of emergency access to her section of town.
With the only access to the residential area being across railroad tracks, she said, “If a train breaks down or derails, you’re just out of luck.”
Ashenfelter, who has advocated for an emergency access to be developed ever since the new Memorial Bridge was designed without an access, estimated that there are about 900 people who live in that section of town. Many of them are elderly.
“The sad thing is, this isn’t going to get solved until somebody gets hurt, or somebody dies, or somebody sues,” she said.
McKenzie told Ashenfelter he doesn’t have a solution, “but it’s definitely something I want to work on.”
Resident Letha Caplinger talked about the long response time for law enforcement, and McKenzie told her in his discussion with county deputies and sate troopers he learned “it’s an issue of manpower. “There’s not enough.”
Chad Thompson of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection asked McKenzie if the OEM has a plan in place to protect the county’s water sources.
He specifically mentioned bridge crossing accidents, explaining, for example, that a wrecked truck on the bridge at El Jinete leaking diesel or other chemicals could contaminate the City of Keyser’s water supply in New Creek.
McKenzie said he plans to confer with A.Jay Root at the Mineral County Health Department to see if plans are in place for such an emergency. As for the county’s various watershed dams, McKenzie said the state has emergency plans in place.
Other possible sources of mass emergencies were mentioned, including ABL/ATK and the Verso paper mill which, although located in Allegany County, would have a profound effect on Piedmont.