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Kanawha still asking for VFD financial data

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Three volunteer fire departments that receive funding from the Kanawha County Commission still have not provided basic financial data to county officials.

Last year, Kanawha County Commissioners Kent Carper, Hoppy Shores and Dave Hardy voted to require fire departments to turn over federal form 990 tax documents before they would be given county funding. Every year, the commission gives $20,000 to every fire department in the county and $10,000 to the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department, which is in Fayette County but responds to calls in Kanawha County.

Almost any fire department has to fill out a form 990 anyway. County officials wanted to see the reports just to make sure the fire departments are keeping their books in order.

"We're just asking them to show us where they've complied with IRS law," Hardy said.

Kanawha County Emergency Services Director Dale Petry told commissioners at a meeting Tuesday that 24 of the county's 27 volunteer fire departments have turned over their forms. County officials have been holding on to the checks of those departments that didn't comply.

Petry said Smithers, Handley and Tornado volunteer fire departments still have not turned over their federal tax forms. County officials had already agreed to cut funding to Smithers, which is under criminal investigation by the West Virginia State Police. State officials had previously cut funding for the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department.

"They'll be lucky if they're ever funded by us again," said Carper.

Petry said officials for the Handley Volunteer Fire Department have agreed to turn over their form 990s, but have not done so. Hardy, Shores and Carper voted to hold on to their check for another two weeks to see if the documents arrive.

Petry said county officials have made repeated attempts to contact the Tornado fire chief, to no avail. "We've done everything but set the pagers off and put in a fire call to see if he shows up," Petry said.

Commissioners agreed to cut funding for Tornado.

"Tear up their check," Carper said. "They'll have to reapply."

Also Tuesday, Petry told commissioners that 582 people in Kanawha County have applied for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of devastating storms that blew through West Virginia in late June and early July. FEMA agreed to provide emergency help for individual property owners in Kanawha, Fayette, Raleigh and Nicholas counties last month.

Deadline to sign up for the assistance is supposed to be next week, but Petry said the deadline might be extended. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked FEMA to approve individual help for residents of 20 additional West Virginia counties Tuesday morning.

FEMA spokesman Frank Blake said Tomblin's request would be forwarded to Washington for a ruling.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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