KEYSER - With commission president Richard Lechliter absent from the county commission meeting, the remaining two elected county officials, Jerry Whisner and Roger Leatherman, answered multiple questions presented to them by Deborah Taylor.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - With commission president Richard Lechliter absent from the county commission meeting, the remaining two elected county officials, Jerry Whisner and Roger Leatherman, answered multiple questions presented to them by Deborah Taylor.
Taylor, a courthouse employee, posed the inquiries so that she could “educate myself on how the county government works.”
She first wanted to know the duties of the county commissioners, with Whisner answering, “The main duty is to keep a balanced budget.”
Taylor was interested in knowing about grants for the county and who was the person in charge of this portion of commission business.
Whisner said that Drew Brubaker, county coordinator, and former county coordinator Mike Bland were responsible for writing the grants for the county.
Whisner did add that the commission is using the “same source for grants for as long as I have been here.”
“We have knocked on the same doors,” he said, and, “We need to find new doors.” He said several of the regular grant funds have been reduced, such as the Justice Assistance grant.
Whisner added the Community Corrections Program “could not function without grants,” and the same for the local health department.
On another subject, Whisner explained about the new cell tower, with the cost topping $1 million.
He also questioned, “Why does a metal tower cost that much?” and he said that in that area of the county, there is no communication service.
Whisner said the tower would assist with the phone service, offering safety and protection when firefighters or law enforcement officers are needed in that area.
Luke McKenzie, director for the county Office of Emergency Management, helped Taylor to understand that the 911 part of the office involves the dispatchers and the OEM section deals with resource management for larger emergency events.
Taylor asked about the jail bill, and Whisner said that part of the county commission business is “paid up to date,” and he said that was not always the case.
He said that with the cooperation of the Community Corrections program and the local magistrates, alternatives to jail sentencing have been found, “reducing the jail bill and at one time it was $77,000 a month.”
Whisner would like to set a goal of having the jail bill stay around $35,000 a month.
Taylor wanted to know the total number of security guards in the courthouse, and there are three full-time and two part-time, and she did have a concern about one of the doors in the building that is left unlocked, suggesting it be “kept locked for safety.”
She inquired of the commissioners the number of recent new businesses in the county and the number of employees involved.
Whisner said there is one new business in the Fort Ashby Business Park and the proposed block plant in the Keyser Industrial Park is scheduled to open in 2018.
Taylor felt the cut back of employees in the county assessor’s office was based on data from the previous assessor, and that office was the only one in the courthouse to have a cut in staff.
She wanted to be able to see and review minutes from the county commission meetings in the record room area of the courthouse, with up-to-date submissions, and she mentioned the most recent minutes she could find in the record room was from late 2012.