Wetzel County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Mike Koontz introduced a new hire for the department at Tuesday's Wetzel County Commission meeting. Charles W. Tennant III is the department's new court officer, a position instituted July 1.
Tennant is non-law enforcement but will be armed and charged with providing security to the courtroom and to the judges any time they are at the courthouse. Tennant will also transport mental patients and prisoners. Koontz said at times when there are no court proceedings to attend nor transport to execute, Tennant will be serving civil process, such as subpoenas and summons. Koontz said Tennant will end up driving a gray Durango which will set him apart from other deputies. The vehicle will be marked as a court officer vehicle and will have markings on it so people will know it's an official vehicle. Koontz said that Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught is going to write a letter outlining what Tennant can and cannot do.
Koontz also gave a general update regarding the sheriff's department and the fiscal year 2012-2013 fiscal budget.
Pictured are Wetzel County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mike Koontz, Court Officer Charles Tennant II, and Sheriff John Brookover. Tennant’s first day as court officer was July 1. (Photo by Lauren Riggs)
Koontz began by thanking the commission for all they had given the department over the past nine months. "You've made things a lot easier," Koontz stated. "We are glad to have received the three new vehicles that were fully outfitted."
Koontz further thanked the commissioners for providing the department with funds to purchase ammunition. He said the necessary ammunition allowed all sheriff's department members to meet state-mandated target practice requirements. Koontz said there had been time periods when the sheriff's department was not qualified for three years because of a lack of ammunition. Because of funding from the commissioners, the sheriff's department was able to qualify twice during the past nine months. Koontz said the department has enough ammunition to qualify again in the fall. The department is required to qualify every six months.
Koontz also thanked the commissioners for the ATV trailer purchased for the sheriff's department. "We had not had one in several years; we had ATVs and no way to utilize them," Koontz said. Koontz referenced the recent patrol Sheriff John Brookover had organized in the Five Points area over Memorial Day weekend.
"In past years, there had been accidents and deaths at Five Points. Since we had a trailer, we were allowed to utilize ATVs. There were no serious accidents, no deaths, and no ambulance dispatched as far as I know," Koontz stated. He added that there would also be ATVs utilized at Town and Country Days this year.
Furthermore, the commissioners helped fund some software the sheriff's department received. Koontz reported the software is to help complete Incident-Based Reporting reports. "We have to do those reports and submit them to receive federal grants," Koontz stated. "That software is going to let us electronically file domestic-violence orders, citations, and keep the information in a log, electronically." Koontz said the new software will allow the sheriff's department to have a searchable database.
Chief Deputy Koontz reported that the Prevention Resource Officer grant had been approved for $20,000. "We appreciate the matching funds you guys are contributing to that," he stated. "Also, we'd like to thank Carol (County Clerk Haught) and her staff for helping to administer and do some of the paperwork for the grant position. They've done that for several years, and we greatly appreciate it." Koontz stated the department was also appreciative of the work Kristi Earley had done in relation to the grant. "She did a lot of writing," he said.
"The budget year 2012-2013 ended very well for the sheriff's office," Koontz reported. "We ended better than what we thought we would. We ended up in June having some money left to utilize to purchase some equipment. We managed to pay all of our bills from years past and re-established credit with some of the vendors."
Koontz said some of the surplus money was used to purchase two new updated digital video cameras. "The one we did have have was the old 8 millimeter videotape type of camera. It made it more difficult to hand that out if it was used for evidence purposes, so we bought two new video cameras. It can be downloaded to any computer and DVDs can be copied in the office." Furthermore, Koontz said some of the deputies did not have digital cameras for their work, so three new digital cameras were purchased for that purpose.
Koontz said 10 orange cone attachments were purchased for the sheriff's department, as they also did not have any to fit the flashlights they had. Also, a new desktop computer was purchased, along with a new radar unit for one of the new officers, as well as a uniform for the department's new court officer.
"We bought new duty ammo," Koontz added. "I've always been told you should rotate your duty ammo every so often . . . they say every six months . . . I can't remember the last time we rotated ours out." Three new handguns were also purchased, one will be used for an empty deputy slot that still needs to be filled.
Koontz said some new office furniture was purchased as well; he added that the office now has four new chairs. "Now when someone visits the office, we don't have to offer them a plastic chair or a broken chair."
In addition to the chairs, Koontz stated the department also has new personalized business cards. "For years we had generic cards that we had to write our name and phone number on. We got 100 business cards for each deputy that contain their name and extension for their desk."
Koontz also reported that Deputy Randy Adams has acquired, through grants or donations, 10 CB radios and 10 GPS units, and Corporal Roger Spragg received two new radar units from the National Safety Council.
It also appears as if the money the commissioners gave the sheriff's department for extra patrol on Routes 7 and 20 has been put to good use. Koontz reported that for April and May, there were approximately 130 citations handed out to drivers, as well as approximately 150 warnings. "We are willing to keep funding that program to stop these traffic violations," Commission President Don Mason stated.
"We are making an impact," Koontz stated. "But part of the problem is that it is not the same people working in the same area all the time. It's got to be a continuing effort on our part. The people we pull over today are working in Pennsylvania or Ohio tomorrow."
In other commission matters, Matt Marciano of Tyco Integrated Security appeared before the commission regarding the county's courthouse security system. The county's chief probation officer, John D. Lantz, was also on hand for the meeting. The commission is currently in the process of sorting out several billing and maintenance issues with Tyco; they are also deciding whether or not to extend their contract with Tyco. Regardless, commissioners expressed the desire to combine the three to four existing maintenance agreements with Tyco into one larger agreement.
Lantz stated that for the next fiscal year, he is looking into writing a grant to help fund new security equipment for the courthouse, similar to the grant he wrote for new magistrate court security equipment. Lantz estimates it could cost several thousand dollars for upgraded equipment.