GLASGOW, WV (WOWK) – In March of 2018, I reported that the mayor of Glasgow, Wayne Armstrong, was resigning after a story that I had covered about his daughter leading state police on a car chase that ended in the middle of the town that Armstrong represented.
Armstrong also cited family health concerns as the reason for stepping down.
When Armstrong resigned, Peggy Fisher took over. Prior to Fisher’s appointment as mayor, she served as the town’s recorder.
Mayor Peggy Fisher’s administration’s relationship with the fire department, according to both sides, is not a healthy one. Moving forward, a number of changes are in the works.
Like many small towns in Appalachia, Glasgow has taken a few hits. The closure of the Kanawha River Plant, a coal-fired AEP operation, several years ago certainly didn’t help.
Moreover, today, town leadership is accused of gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars by the fire department that protects that very town.
“There was bad decisions made of purchases that exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars that are affecting the town’s outcome,” said Marty Blankenship, Glasgow’s fire chief.
Blankenship is the chief of both the paid fire department in Glasgow and the volunteer department. He’s been in the fire service for decades and has worked hand in hand with leadership on a number of levels.
Most of the time, he said, things go pretty smoothly.
That has not been the case lately. “There is a relationship that we have, but it’s not a good working relationship,” he said.
The bad blood, in this case, revolves around the fire department’s newest truck.
Blankenship said the new administration’s reckless use of town funds has forced the Glasgow Volunteer Fire Department to assume the liability and payment of the truck.
“We’re just like any other fire department in the state,” he said. “We only get so much money and there’s only so much money to stretch.”
He added that if the volunteer department did not take over the payments, Mayor Fisher said the town would have to liquidate the truck.
That is a claim Mayor Fisher denied when we asked.
She refused our request to speak about the issue on camera. She told me that nothing had been discussed during city council meetings and the discussion of liquidation never happened. She did say that the relationship with the fire department is strained.
Blankenship said the truck was purchased by the town in 2015 for $254,000. Because the volunteer department is taking over payments, the volunteer department now owes between $118,000 and $120,000, he said.
In addition to the issues that the department claims they are facing as a result of the mismanagement of funds, Blankenship said the amount owed on the truck, which was purchased by the town in 2015, far exceeds the amount the department was originally told.
“Somewhere in lieu of $40,000 more than what was advised,” he said.
The fire department and the citizens of Glasgow that I’ve spoken with aren’t the only ones who have been taking notice of the town’s economic crisis.
The state auditor’s office stepped in last year. In August the agency subpoenaed the financial records for at least the past four years.
We wanted to know where the audit stands. In a written statement, the office said:
“The Auditor’s Office generally does not comment on the existence or nature of an open matter. However, given the public comments from Town officials about our office’s inquiry, we can confirm that the Auditor’s office is conducting an examination of the Town of Glasgow’s finances. This examination covers multiple years, and we are working diligently to complete our work. As with other matters, a final report will be issued upon completion of our examination.”
“For the town to survive, the Auditor’s Office is going to have to give us some answers, and give us some answers fast,” Blankenship said.
Every fire district in the state is given an Insurance Service Office rating or ISO rating.
According to the Fire Marshal’s Office, the lower the ISO rating, the lower the homeowner’s insurance is for the people living in that specific district.
One of the factors of an ISO rating is the age of a department’s truck.
Blankenship said if the department lost the truck in question, home insurance in the town would go up, based on the age of the other trucks they use.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.