The New Martinsville Police Department continues to operate on a skeleton crew. Police Chief Tim Cecil told city council at their meeting June 3 that he has lost another officer whose last day will be June 14. Another officer is being offered a position with the Wetzel County Sheriff's Office. If that position is accepted, the department will be down five officers, leaving them five, including Cecil, Investigator Donnie Harris, Prevention Resource Officer Steve Kastigar. The five losses have been from retirement, death, and resignation.
Councilman Steve Pallisco said they have to increase salaries or the employment issues will never improve. Councilwoman Iris "Deaner" Isaacs asked if there had been any progress on doing that. "We are strongly attempting," said Councilwoman Kay Goddard.
They also mentioned that in Paden City, if an officer doesn't stay for a year, the officer has to pay for the cost of the academy. They believe New Martinsville should do something like that.
The police committee has been unable to meet recently, but a meeting is scheduled for today at 7:15 p.m.
The city did some widespread advertising for police officers and received 21 applications. They will conduct written and physical tests on June 29. They have also instituted a new practice of charging a $15 application fee that pays for a study guide for the applicants. They hope that will increase the passage rate. "Hopefully we'll get some qualified candidates," said Councilman Chris Bachman.
Cecil said he is trying to wait until June 14 to do any hiring because after that date regulations allow for the department to hire three provisional employees for 90 days. That measure would get them through the summer and vacation-laden time. The current officers must use their vacation time by July 1.
Bachman wanted the public to understand, "The officers you are seeing are working a lot of overtime."
"It's just been kind of rough on them," said Cecil.
Also under police matters, council unanimously approved a bid of $4,581 from Miller Communications for a new antennae and repeater. That was the lone bid submitted.
"This is an important thing to get done," said Mayor Keith Nelsen who noted how the current system leaves some "dead" spots where officers could not communicate with dispatch. Cecil said the testing, which included their "trouble spots," worked well. "It is going to give us all clear reception and make us able to do what we need to do," said Cecil.
The expenditure will be paid out of the hydroelectric funds. Isaacs abstained from the vote since she is a part-time dispatcher.