New Martinsville Council has approved an additional $20 court cost to go toward law enforcement equipment.
The governing body unanimously, with Councilwoman Iris "Deaner" Isaacs abstaining, agreed to the measure at their regular meeting held Feb. 3. The funds will go in a reserve account that is already in place.
The fee will be levied on every case in municipal court, which is approximately 200 per year. However, Police Chief Tim Cecil noted that doesn't necessarily mean the department will realize $4,000 from the fee.
"We can write the tickets, but you'll have some people that just don't pay."
The measure appears to come at a good time as Cecil said his department had been having trouble with their handheld radios. He said an officer had some suspects at gunpoint and he couldn't clearly hear the radio transmission when they were probably only 100 yards apart.
"We need to fix that immediately," said Councilman Steve Pallisco.
Councilwoman Kay Goddard agreed, "This is critical."
The department has an old quote from Miller Communications for new handheld radios. It places the costs at $800-1,000 each. The purchase of six, said Cecil, would be a good start to better equip the officers.
Isaacs, who is also a part-time dispatcher, said, "There is nothing more frustrating as when there is an officer out there and you can't tell what they need."
Parks Director Beverly Gibb said a proposed ordinance to ban tobacco products from the city's parks is currently with City Attorney Carolyn Flannery.
"We want to continue moving forward with it," said Gibb.
She said that while she doesn't foresee writing many tickets for the offense, she wants to make it clearer that the products are not allowed in the parks.
"If we can't enforce drug use, how can we enforce smoking?" asked Goddard.
The city has sent a letter to the Department of Transportation requesting upgraded lighting on state Route 2, particularly in the area of the four-lane section near the Ohio River bridge. Council subsequently learned from the DOT that there is a plan to do some lighting upgrades.
However, they also said the bridge will not be painted for 20 years. Goddard did not like that news, saying the city needed to push for that project also.
Electric Department Manager David White told council he met with a representative from General Electric to discuss installing LED lighting for the city's street lights (the highway lights belong to the DOT).
"It might be something you might want to look into," said White.
He said the yearly cost of operation per light could go from perhaps $200/$250 to $50/$80. In other words, it could be an approximately 75 percent savings.
White said the city has probably 300-400 street lights, so the savings could be very significant.
He was not proposing changing all of the lights at once, but over time. "This is the trend," White told council.
On the bright, he said the LED lights are as bright or brighter than the current fixtures, they are guaranteed to last five years but generally last over 15 years, and the design of them might make them more resistant to vandalism.
Goddard asked White to present a detailed plan to council.
Finally, council approved moving George Tharp from a laborer's position to equipment operator. Also, Randall Moore will be reclassified as assistant street commissioner.