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Kanawha commissioners want to drop Putnam Aging

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper wants a local nonprofit to lost control of a program designed to provide food to seniors.

Carper announced that moving control of the senior nutrition program, which provides food for seniors who are homebound, out of the hands of Putnam Aging was "the highest priority."

Carper made the announcement during Thursday's commission meeting, which was attended by St. Albans Mayor Dick Calloway.

Calloway claimed Putnam Aging was failing to provide food to about 70 elderly residents around St. Albans who were in dire need.

Some of those seniors were homebound and some were even receiving end-of-life care from Hospice, Calloway said. 

Carper expressed outrage and indicated that the commission would do everything in its power to rectify the situation.

"This is not right," Carper said.

Carper pointed out that in 2011, Putnam Aging agreed to pay West Virginia Medicaid $1.35 million because it had subcontracted with a company that used felons as caregivers.

"They bungled things and lost almost a half a million dollars," Carper said.

West Virginia Delegate Suzette Raines, R-35th District, also indicated she supported removing control from Putnam Aging.

"The only way Kanawha County can take responsibility is if seniors with complaints take it up with the Bureau of Senior Services," Raines said.

Commissioner Hoppy Shores said he would head a task force to look into the issue and take complaints to the state agency. The commission will also take the matter to the governor, Carper said.

"We'll let him know that the largest county in the state is not amused by having 70 senior citizens who can't get fed and some of them are being treated by Hospice," Carper said.

Another issue discussed before the commission on Thursday set off a "tornado" of controversy.            

The small, unincorporated community of Tornado along the Coal River had its name changed on official U.S. maps to Upper Falls in 2010, said Bill Currey, founder and chairman of the Coal River Group, an association working to restore the Coal River and promote economic development in the area.

However, the community has been called Tornado since 1881, Fire Chief Greg Childress said.

However, the U.S. Geological Survey renamed the community outside St. Albans Upper Falls after receiving a letter from one individual who lives in the area, Currey said. The issue can cause problems because GPS technology identifies the town as Upper Falls, Currey said. This makes it very difficult to promote businesses located in Tornado, he said.

"Everyone has a navigation system on their phone or in their car," Currey said.

The Coal River Group organizes the Tour de Coal, a boat trip on the river. Last year about 600 people participated, Currey said.

He pointed out that the name change makes it hard for people who do not live in the area but are interested in attending the event to find Tornado.

Commissioners voted to send a letter to the U.S. Geological Survey's U.S. Bureau of Geographic Names asking that the name officially be changed back to Tornado.

Commission President Kent Carper asked a packed house at Thursday's commission meeting if anyone objected.

No one spoke up and all of those in attendance indicated their support.

Bill Thompson, the man who requested the name change, did not attend Thursday's commission meeting.  

The U.S. Geological Survey's U.S. Bureau of Geographic Names meets on March 14 to deal with official name changes.

The federal group changed the name of a community without first holding a public meeting or seeking input from the residents, Carper said.

County Project Manager Colt Sandoro said he contacted representatives from the federal office who claimed they sent a letter to the commission indicating that the name could be changed.

However, both Sandoro and Carper said they received no such letter. Sandoro added that he asked the federal representative to whom the letter had been sent. He said he received no concrete answer.

Carper instructed Sandoro to request a copy of the letter via the Freedom of Information Act.

"I want to see that letter," Carper said.

Commissioners also agreed to move $150,000 out of the county's stabilization fund into the health fund to cover medical claims.

The commission has moved about $650,000 above the $5 million budgeted for medical claims, into the health care fund this fiscal year, Carper said.

The commission will likely budget $5.8 million to cover the rising cost of health care during the next fiscal year's budget, Chief Fiscal Officer David Fontalbert said. 

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817.             Follow him at  



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