The Courtesy Patrol is a free roadside assistance service offered to those traveling through West Virginia. The program is within the Division of Tourism, as the patrol often helps visitors as they travel. It has a budget of four million dollars. In the House Wednesday, Delegates considered a senate passed bill that transfers the patrol to the Division of Highways, but allows Tourism to keep the money for state marketing campaigns. But the debate took a turn, as Republicans debated whether the courtesy patrol should even exist.
Senate Bill 581 relates to the transferring of the Courtesy Patrol from the Division of Tourism to the Division of Highways, eliminating requirement that moneys be transferred from the Tourism Promotion Fund to the Courtesy Patrol Fund. This would also specify how funds may be spent.
Delegate Michel Moffatt, a Republican from Putnam County, proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 581 that would do away with the Courtesy Patrol completely and have that four million dollars go toward West Virginia road maintenance.
While all Democratic Delegates were opposed to the amendment, the majority of Republicans were also.
Delegate Matthew Rohrbach of Cabell County visited the Courtesy Patrol’s website after Delegate Moffatt offered his amendment. He found that between November 1998 to the end of February 2015, the Courtesy Patrol has aided a lot of people.
“I’m gonna give you some statistics of the services that these folks have provided to the citizens of this state and to our visitors,” Rohrbach said, “They’ve assisted 292,000 vehicles, removed 18,000 pieces of debris, 8,500 deer carcasses, surprisingly 181 bears have been removed by the Courtesy Patrol as well as 3,900 other animal carcasses. They perform 14,000 procedural checks, and in total they’ve assisted 78,000 vehicles.”
Republican Bob Ashley of Roane County also opposed the amendment because he says it’s necessary for those who can’t afford assistance.
“I was here when we created the program in 1998. I remember when Governor Underwood put this program in to use the people from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, and that’s what we use,” noted Ashley, “We take the people who are on welfare who receives this assistance, and they, they get their training with West Virginia, and they do the service, and as the gentlemen from several places, several counties has talked, these people are then picked up by private, they’re trained, and they’re picked up by the companies of West Virginia.”
Republican Delegate Cindy Frich of Monogalia County, however, supported Moffat’s amendment to eliminate the courtesy patrol.
“I suspect that if the Delegate’s amendment were to succeed that perhaps there would be four million dollars more for perhaps road maintenance or some other sort of road repair, and then perhaps there’d be less people needing assistance on the roads and perhaps there’d be jobs created filling potholes,” Frich said.
Delegate Michael Ihle, a Republican from Jackson County, also supported the amendment, because he says the 4 million dollars might be better used if put toward sending Courtesy Patrol employees back in school.
“If we wanted too, we could take that four million dollars, split it up amongst the eighty people and give’em all each a fifty-thousand-dollar scholarship to go back to school,” Ihle explained, “To me, there are benefits from this program, but we have to weigh them versus the costs, and when you talk about fifty-thousand-dollars a person, I don’t know that we’re getting the return on our spending slash investment depending on which term you want to use. The math just doesn’t add up for me.”
By the end of the debate, Moffatt’s amendment was rejected 12 to 87. Senate Bill 581 will be on third reading Thursday.