Eastern panhandle localities look to state legislature for fix in public safety retirement plan

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — With the West Virginia legislature having returned to the Capitol this week to set an agenda for the coming year, Mountain State local government is looking for help on the public safety front.

Localities across West Virginia have a wish list for their legislators meeting in Charleston.

In the growing eastern panhandle local government is doing its best to keep pace with the demand for services. Take W. Brian Costello, for example, EMS director of the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority. Staffing a busy squad has become a challenge.

“Every public safety department in the state,” says Costello – “when those people retire their state retirement is tax exempt. EMS is the only public safety piece that has not been included.”

Costello has been working with eastern panhandle Senator Patricia Rrucker, an ally in the effort to bring parity to the emergency services retirement system.

“So we’re really looking for them to say ‘hey, let’s make this a priority’ to have a fiscal note to say that it would basically cost the state $150,000 a year in revenue to exempt those retirees on the EMS side,” says Costello, “just like every other public safety division.”

In neighboring Jefferson County, Charles Town Mayor Bob Trainor is also keeping his eye on the legislature in Charleston. His region, too, is growing so fast he is concerned about some of the mundane nuts and bolts of governing, like annexation of surrounding communities.

“We’d like some clarification on the urban growth boundaries,” Trainor says.

After their initial meeting in Charleston this week, legislators take a break. Their sixty-day session resumes next month at the state capital. And wen lawmakers return to the capital they will hear the governor’s State of the State address at the start of the full 2021 working session.

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