Hundred WVSP Detachment To Close
HUNDRED – West Virginia Delegate Dave Pethtel said he doesn’t like that the employees at West Virginia State Police’s Hundred detachment, along with local elected officials, were not notified in advance of the announcement of the detachment’s closure, which will occur on Jan. 1.
“There is no one who feels worse about the closure of the Hundred State Police detachment than me. I live there,” Pethtel remarked to the Chronicle during an interview Monday morning.
“However,” he said, “I have a clear conscience. I did everything possible to keep it open,” he said.
Pethtel met with Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers of the WVSP last week.
Pethtel said the closure is connected to two problems, one being that state agencies have had to cut services because of a downturn of general the last four years. Secondly, Pethtel noted, Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers believes it isn’t economically feasible in today’s climate to maintain a physical detachment in each community.
“(Smithers) believes that better community police protection can be provided by consolidating rural detachments and assigning manpower and resources from one general location… I, and most of my constituents, respectfully disagree!” Pethtel said.
Pethtel said he had been diligently working to try to keep the detachment open from upon hearing of the news on Saturday, Nov. 19, to Wednesday, Nov. 23. Pethtel met with Colonel Smithers and Joey Garcia, the governor’s legislative director, last week. Pethtel said he was told by Smithers that without the closing of Hundred, Grantsville, and Elizabeth detachments, civilian personnel would be laid off.
Pethtel noted that it is the job of the legislature and governor “to have the political will to make difficult decisions and provide proper funding for services people want, like public safety. When these funds are provided, closures like this happen.”
Pethtel said the legislature and Governor Tomblin have cut over $400 million out of the general revenue budget the past four years.
“I get it when people tell me they don’t want more taxes. I say to them, ‘You won’t like all the cuts in services that are coming either.'”
Pethtel said the state constitution mandates that there is a balanced general revenue budget July 1 of each year. “Without it, the state government shuts down,” Pethtel explained. “This isn’t Washington, D.C., where Congress just adds to the budget.”
Pethtel said in making budget cuts, a challenge lies in the fact that about two-thirds of the $4 billion general revenue budget is statutorily or constitutionally protected.
“The dramatic drop in coal production, and the rock bottom prices of oil and natural gas led to a major decline in severance tax revenue. As fewer people were working, this also caused a decrease in personal income tax, sales tax, and between 2007-2015, the legislature phased out the business franchise tax and lowered the corporate income tax from nine percent to six to five percent. The six percent sales tax on food was also phased out.”
Pethtel explained that 85 percent of the state of the state police budget is used for personnel and support, such as PEIA, retirement, workers compensation, and more. Fifteen percent of the budget goes for current expense, forensic lab, and IT staff.
“I also understand that the money from several funded, but vacant, positions have had to be turned back in over they ears to help balance the budget.”
The news of the closure of the Hundred detachment was released to the public via a press release from the state police on Nov. 22. According to Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers, “it is not economically feasible in today’s climate to maintain a physical detachment in each community across our state.”
State police said the Hundred detachment’s area of responsibility will be covered by the Paden City detachment. The Grantsville detachment in Calhoun County and the Elizabeth detachment in Wirt County also will be closing Jan. 1.
State police will continue to provide law enforcement services in affected areas, officials said.
“Regardless of the current adversities facing our state, the West Virginia State Police shall remain resolute in continuing to provide professional law enforcement services, just as we always have since 1919.”
State police said new technology will enable them to “more easily accomplish objectives while making better use of manpower and resources in the process. Also, focusing manpower and resources in a coordinated manner often makes more sense than having resources stretched thinly across the state. This allows for more flexibility in scheduling personnel and distributing resources to areas when critical needs arise.”
State Police said the decision to close the three detachments was made after careful consideration.
“While the decisions may seem sudden to members of the affected communities,” Smithers said, “the West Virginia State Police believes it has a moral responsibility to strive continually to be a good steward of taxpayer money. The decisions were only made after much thought, careful deliberation and a thorough consideration of alternative courses of action.”
Like Pethtel, Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught was critical of the way the news was brought to the attention of stakeholders.
Haught said he learned of the closure through social media.
“I’m kind of shocked,” he said. “They didn’t have the common courtesy to contact me in advance. I’m upset about it.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Haught said he still hadn’t been officially notified of the closing. He noted the timing of the announcement coincided with the start of hunting season and the Thanksgiving holiday.
“No one from the West Virginia State Police has contacted me about the closing,” he said. “I am very disappointed in the closure of what has been a very successful detachment. … Apparently, authorities in Charleston thought it more important to notify the landlord than to discuss the closure with the local prosecuting attorney or other local law enforcement prior to making a decision.
Haught said closing the Hundred detachment is “a mistake that negatively impacts the residents of the eastern part of Wetzel County and makes our job more difficult.”
“I encourage everyone upset about the decision to contact the governor’s office,” he said.
In July 2014, political pressure seemed to have saved the local detachment, which was in danger of closing then. At that time, Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught had written a letter to Smithers. Also, Delegate Pethtel, along with then senators Larry Edgell and Jeff Kessler, had contacted Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.
Since that time in 2014, the Hundred detachment has made the local headlines a couple of different times.
In May 2015, Corporal William D. Henderson of the detachment was honored by receiving the West Virginia State Police Superintendent’s Award, the highest honor given by Smithers.
Sergeant Jeff Shriver of the WVSP, who had nominated Henderson, had remarked at the time that Henderson’s recognition stemmed from two 2014 investigations the officer had worked on, including the grisly and brutal Littleton murders that the Hundred WVSP detachment had investigated.
Miles Layton contributed to this article.