TAYLOR COUNTY—When disasters threaten the lives and property of Taylor County, there is an entity that is called upon to ensure that the county is protected and remains as safe as possible.
The Taylor County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), headed by Grafton Police Chief Bobby Beltner and Deputy Chief Michael Kochka, is there when duty calls, ensuring the protection of the residents and their property through coordination, guidance, support and assistance to first responders and emergency personnel.
Serving under the Department of Homeland Security, formerly the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the Office of Emergency Management is tasked with managing disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery efforts within the counties they serve, in the event of either manmade or natural disasters.
The OEM works with state and sometimes federal agencies to acquire the appropriate tools and funding for efforts associated with such events. In addition to forming crucial partnerships, the agency is responsible for planning; preparedness, which includes trainings, exercises and meetings; mitigation strategies; and response efforts.
Flood plain management and 911 mapping are two additional areas that fall under the spectrum of the OEM’s duties.
Each county in the state houses their own OEM, and many are staffed with full-time personnel, however Taylor County’s OEM is much different, having only part-time staffers.
When the COVID-19 outbreak occurred, the Taylor County OEM stepped in to aid citizens and responding agencies in the battle against the virus. The agency has been working non-stop behind the scenes to ensure that procedures and operations are put in place that will benefit the community.
Because of their hard work, the Taylor County Commission recently voted to increase the pay of both Beltner and Kochka.
According to Commission President Orville Wright, he received a letter from the Taylor County OEM, asking for the consideration of pay raise.
“The OEM has been working from 8:00 a.m. until midnight, and while they are really part-time, they have kept those hours because of COVID,” he revealed. “Beltner and Kochka have been making the same wages since before I came on the commission, and I have been here for five and a half years.”
He noted that their rate of pay was not much more than minimum wage, at $10.73 an hour.
“The request that they have is for at least $11.50 an hour,” reported Wright. “I think that this request is more than reasonable.”
While he noted that the Co-Directors would incur some overtime due to the ongoing pandemic, he believed a raise was in order, considering the hard work and dedication of Beltner and Kochka.
Commissioner Sam Gerkin echoed the sentiment saying, “I think this request is incredibly reasonable. I’m a man who likes even numbers. Might I suggest that we increase that to $12 an hour? I will make a motion that we approve the rate of pay at $12 an hour for the Office of Emergency Management.”
After some discussion, it was decided that the Co-Directors of the OEM would receive Gerkin’s suggested rate of pay for their efforts in keeping the community safe, and with a unanimous vote the motion passed.
“Bobby and Mike work really hard for Taylor County,” said Wright. “This raise is very much earned.”
Be sure to like and follow the Taylor County OEM’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/taylor.oes to receive updates concerning Taylor County.