Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 28, 2014

Courtesy Patrol program left out of W.Va. state budget

CHARLESTON — Its website touts the “highway angels” who stop along the West Virginia Turnpike to assist motorists in trouble.

Now, it seems the Courtesy Patrol might be on the curb awaiting the arrival of its own angel.

One of nine programs run by the Citizens Conservation Corps based in Beckley, the Courtesy Patrol was left out of the state budget, an “oversight,” according to state officials, that will be taken care of in a supplemental bill when the Legislature meets again in special session.

Local senators are on the lookout for that promised supplement for a service they say in no uncertain terms the area can’t be without.

“If they think Sen. Green and I are going to sit there and watch the Courtesy Patrol dwindle away, they’ve lost their minds,” said Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming. “We’re going to support those jobs and the service they provide in our district. It’s a big benefit to our area.”

Hall said he and Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, have been assured “it’s going to be OK” by the administration, although Hall would not say who offered the pledge.

Green explained that the complicated budget was illustrated through “buckets.” The Courtesy Patrol, a $3 million annual contract, is funded through the Tourism Division “bucket.” The patrol and a few other items were omitted from that bucket, possibly because bidding for the contract is let through the Division of Highways through the State Purchasing Department. The change occurred during the Manchin administration about five years ago because of an issue with federal matching funds, Green said.

 Typically, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin calls a special session in May, just after the primary election. If Courtesy Patrol funding does not pass in a supplemental bill, the service could be defunct as early as mid-summer.

“It has to be awarded before July 1,” Green said. The contract with Citizens Conservation Corps ended in May 2013, but CCCWV has been operating under three-month extensions since that time. “It’s a very worthwhile state investment,” he said.

CCCWV employs former welfare recipients to patrol 810 miles of highway for 16 hours every day, according to its website.

Modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps established under President Franklin Roosevelt, CCCWV’s website says it remains “ever focused on the individuals who seek to improve themselves and their communities.”

The non-profit’s website also explains eight other entities that operate under CCCWV’s umbrella. Other services include Mobilize Green, which assists the U.S. Forest Service in finding volunteers and teaching about environmental issues; Burning Rock, an outdoor adventure park; and Appalachian Coal Country Team, a project to assist rural communities “impoverished by environmental degradation and its consequences,” uses Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) to teach environmental stewardship and healthy futures.

Other than the Courtesy Patrol, CCCWV and its subsidiaries were perhaps most visible last year during the Boy Scout Jamboree held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette Co. CCCWV helped identify service projects for the Scouts to help complete during their three-week inaugural stay in West Virginia.

Both Hall and Green had kind words for the non-profit organization, which made statewide news earlier this week, revealing that the top two executives earned six-figure salaries.

“The Courtesy Patrol does tremendous work that benefits Southern West Virginia,” Hall said.

“When we talk about job creation and getting individuals off state assistance and into the work force, the Courtesy Patrol does that very thing,” Green agreed. “The Courtesy Patrol not only is a job creator but it is a great show of good will to tourists and motorists who may find themselves in need of assistance while traveling through our great state.”

Chief Operating Officer and Courtesy Patrol Director Jennifer Douglas did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

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