WVSP Detachment To Stay In Hundred
It appears that political pressure may have saved the Hundred Detachment of the West Virginia State Police.
Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught stated last week that he had received notification that the Hundred Detachment of the WV State Police would be closing sometime within the next 30 days, in an effort to cut expenses. In a letter addressed to Colonel C.R. “Jay” Smithers, Superintendent of the WV State Police, Haught asked Smithers to “note my strong opposition to the closure of the Hundred Detachment.”
“Wetzel County is a very large county and our county seat is located on the extreme western edge of the county,” Haught wrote. “The Hundred Detachment is vital to our efforts to police that section of Wetzel County.” Haught noted that recently “we have seen an increase in crime in that area of the county because of its proximity to Morgantown and Fairmont, West Virginia, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the drug traffic associated with those areas.”
Prosecutor Haught noted in his letter that Hundred’s state police detachment is currently investigating an attempted murder and a triple homicide, “both of which occurred in the Hundred area.” He further noted that the department was responsible for making an arrest in an attempted murder case, “which involved a stand-off with law enforcement. “The detachment has also been essential in both interdiction and investigation of the growing drug crimes in that part of the county, in addition to handling many other criminal investigations.”
“Closure of the Hundred Detachment is a serious blow to our efforts here in Wetzel County,” Haught noted. “If there is any way we can keep the Hundred Detachment open, please let me know.” He also noted that although he knows the state police does not have to seek his input with respect to “these decisions, however, I would have appreciated the opportunity to at least discuss the closure prior to being notified of the same . . . I would also have appreciated more notice of the action as I will need to make other arrangements with the Sheriff’s Office in order to assure myself that the needs of the Hundred area are being met.” Haught noted that he was certain the community of Hundred would have appreciated more notice as well.”
“I know that the citizens in the area will be quite concerned with the closure of the Hundred Detachment.”
In conclusion, Haught urged Col. Smithers to reconsider his decision and stated, “It will have a negative impact on our overall efforts to serve and protect the citizens in Wetzel County.”
Monday morning Prosecutor Haught stated he had been contacted by Delegate Dave Pethtel (D-W.Va.) who, in combination with Senator Larry Edgell and Senate President Jeff Kessler, had contacted Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office. “They have assured Dave that (the closure) is not going to happen,” Haught stated.
“We all oppose the closure of the office because that part of the county is 50 minutes from any law enforcement,” Haught stated. “Those troopers cover part of Mannington, Marion County, parts of Harrison County . . . What I’ve been told by Pethtel is that he spoke personally with Colonel Smithers and the governor’s chief of staff, and that’s not going to happen.”
Delegate Dave Pethtel spoke to the Wetzel Chronicle Monday concerning the situation and stated that on June 30 he had received a call from Haught, who notified him that the state police detachment in Hundred was going to be closed.
“I immediately contacted Senator Larry Edgell and Senate President Jeff Kessler to see if they had been notified of this news. None of us had been.”
Pethtel stated he called the governor’s office to speak with either the governor or Jason Pizatella, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.
“They were both unavailable at that time, so I contacted the state police detachment in Hundred and later that day talked with Sergeant Jeff Shriver, and he confirmed to me what he had been told by the captain out of Shinnston.”
“Basically what I did, I did contact Colonel Smithers about this, and he did confirm to me that there was a process in place to close the Hundred detachment, and basically, I first talked to him about several reasons why I felt the detachment should not be closed.”
Pethtel stated he first told Smithers that Hundred is located in the eastern part of Wetzel County, and it is an hour to the closest state police detachment in any direction. I told him there was no other police force to cover the eastern part of Wetzel County in a timely manner.”
Pethtel added he also told Smithers that “officers from the Hundred detachment also covered the western part of Monongalia County and sometimes they cover the northern part of Marion County and also part of Marshall County.”
Pethtel stated that Smithers “brought up to me a couple of things.”
“First, he said that they were going to move the two troopers-Sergeant Shriver and Corporal Henderson-to another location, and then they would be sending state police to this area to cover this area, and he felt like we would have better police coverage.”
“I told him that in all due respect to him, that I couldn’t disagree with him more,” Pethtel said. “And he brought up the money being tight, and I told him that according to my sources that this detachment was operating for anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 a year, not including the salaries. That would be for rent and utilities, and I told him that in my opinion, it was going to end up costing them money because by driving all over the county and the area they were going to use more fuel and have more maintenance cost on their vehicles.
“And I think the big part here is that the general safety and welfare of the people of this area and surrounding areas would greatly be compromised without the state police detachment being in Hundred.”
Pethtel stated he also told Smithers that he needed to look at the investigation log that the troopers here were not writing a lot of traffic citations, “but if you look at the investigation log, he would see that they were working on felonies in this area.”
Pethtel stated that on June 30 he also sent an e-mail to Gov. Tomblin and to Pizatella and pointed out “that we have two schools here, a high school and an elementary/middle school, and these schools do not have any other police coverage. They don’t have an officer in either one of these schools, and basically what I said in my e-mail to Governor Tomblin was we look forward to discussing this issue with him anytime in the near future.”
Pethtel stated he invited Gov. Tomblin and Col. Smithers to come to Hundred and to “drive Wetzel County and the areas that the Hundred detachment covers before any decision would be made.”
On July 2 Pethtel spoke personally with Pizatella, who informed him that the situation with the Hundred detachment was “just a rumor,” and “he didn’t know where it got started.” Pethtel stated that he told Pizatella that he did not believe it was a rumor, but Pizatella assured him “that the Hundred detachment would not be closing.”
Pethtel states that without the help of Senator Edgell and Senate President Kessler, “we would have not been successful in this venture.” He added that he also appreciates the letter Prosecutor Haught wrote and “the support of our county commissioners.”
“This was not just me acting alone,” he noted. “We all worked together to get this accomplished, and the state policemen and the staff at the Hundred detachment were very cooperative in this venture.”
“I’ve been in the House of Delegates for 22 years,” Pethtel stated. “I live here in Hundred, and I told Col. Smithers that we would do everything possible to keep the state police detachment open in Hundred, making sure that the citizens have adequate police protection.” He added, “Certainly, as I told you before, without the state police detachment here, the general welfare and safety of people would be greatly compromised.”
Wetzel County Commission President Bob Gorby stated Tuesday morning that the commission was involved talking to the state senators and Pethtel, and “of course thanks to them . . . they were on the phone continuously. They were on the phone to get that straightened out before it went too far.”
“They were keeping us informed on the progress of their negotiations,” Commissioner Don Mason stated.
The Wetzel Chronicle also reached out to Gov. Tomblin’s office as well as the West Virginia State Police for comment on the situation. As of press time, we had not heard from Tomblin’s office.
Col. Smithers did issue the following statement: “The West Virginia State Police continually strives to be good stewards of the taxpayers money. Therefore, we constantly look for ways to be more efficient and effective as an agency. Recently, we consolidated the Gilbert Detachment with the Williamson Detachment. As a result of this decision, public safety was enhanced as work schedules became more flexible and resources were better allocated.”
“Any future decision concerning the status of the Hundred Detachment, or any other detachment, would only be made if similar results could be achieved.”