County commission votes to continue allowing owner, officer requests for wrecker services

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission voted to keep allowing owner and officer requests in the county’s procedure to dispatch wrecker services.

The procedure to dispatch wrecker services – i.e., vehicle-towing services – dictates the E911 Upshur County Communication Center’s response to requests for emergency towing services. Anytime the Comm Center needs to dispatch towing services, it must abide by that set of procedures. 

The Comm Center utilizes a list of area wrecker services to remove vehicles when wrecks occur in the county. To ensure no one wrecker service is favored over another, the Comm Center maintains a list designed to ensure each wrecker service has a fair chance to respond.

The Upshur County Commission started a process to make a few changes to the policy in February but tabled other changes, such as removing owner and officer requests. During the February meeting, commissioner Terry Cutright wanted to remove officer and owner requests because he was concerned certain towing companies might be receiving more calls to incidents.

The commission decided to gather data for six months to determine if these requests caused a disproportionate number of calls for certain towing services.

Then, during the Sept. 8 commission meeting, Upshur County Administrator Tabatha Perry said they received the data from the call center, and it is available for everyone to read on the Upshur County Commission website.

“The call center started keeping track of who’s being called out in rotation or officer requests because before, not really all that information was detailed out, so the commission has been provided the data to review,” Perry said.

Some first responders attended the meeting to advocate for keeping officer requests. Captain Brian Elmore with the Buckhannon Fire Department said certain situations require first responders to ask for the towing service that can respond the quickest.

“If we are on 33, it can take Ducky 20 or 30 minutes to get on scene and there are other local tow truck services that are much quicker,” Elmore said. “We’ve had an instance where one tow service owns a tow service in another county and we found that they dispatch that tow service to come over to Upshur and get the car, so we were out there for quite a long time.”

Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte said he agreed the person in charge of the scene should be able to make decisions for the sake of safety.

“In a situation like that, my personal feeling is safety should come first and whoever’s in charge of the scene should be able to ask for another service,” Nolte said.

Buckhannon Fire Chief JB Kimble said vehicles involved in a collision should be cleared as fast and safely as possible.

“Recently we’ve been having one local wrecker service now coming from Lewis County and I just pulled this article out from 2020, which says 2,500 fire engines got hit on four-lane accidents, staging to protect the scene, so the shorter period of time we have exposure, the better off we are,” Kimble said.

He said some towing services are also better equipped to deal with certain situations.

“The other day, when we arrived on scene and I notified Comm Center we needed to move two vehicles and they advised us of the responding company, but they still only brought one truck to pick one car, left and then came back and that is an unacceptable practice,” Kimble said. “Typically, most wreckers here can bring two wreckers for a two-car accident, but if we know there’s two cars and the next wrecker on the list only has one, we need to advise another service to respond.”

Upshur County Commissioners Kristie Tenney and Nolte voted to keep both owner and officer requests. An owner of the vehicle cannot ask the Comm Center to request a specific towing service, but they may call one on their own. However, if the wrecker dispatched by the Comm Center arrives on scene first, that wrecker will tow the vehicle or vehicles involved.

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