Assessor Unhappy with Move
Wetzel County Assessor Scott Lemley is the latest Wetzel County representative expressing disapproval of the closure of Hundred’s West Virginia State Police detachment.
The news of the closure was announced to the public via a Nov. 22 press release. The detachment is expected to close on Jan. 1.
In a letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Lemley said he was discouraged to hear the news that the detachment “was in the process, or on a list, to be closed.”
Lemley said he believes the county needs the detachment in Hundred.
“The State Police in Hundred, WV covers a large area, not only within Wetzel County but the surrounding counties, and we need this police protection within our county.”
Lemley said that, going forward, he hoped that the Governor’s Office, as well as the office of WVSP Colonel C.R. “Jay” Smithers, would reach out to the community before such a drastic decision “is made that will have a negative impact on our county and the Hundred Community.”
Brenda Dorsey, who lives in the Route 7 area in Wetzel County, expressed her worry about the detachment closure. Dorsey told the Chronicle that those who live “far out in the eastern part of Wetzel County have a long wait when we call police or ambulance.” Dorsey said the fewer law enforcement officers there are, “the longer it will take for one to reach us.”
Dorsey added though that residents understand there are budget problems all over the state and service- such as health insurance, medical care, and now police presence – are part of the cuts.
“We live in a rural area by choice,” she said, “but as daily life becomes more challenging, we must look to ourselves and friends and neighbors to keep our property safe.”
“We appreciate all that law enforcement does, but they cannot be everywhere at once.”
Terry Riter of Littleton agrees with Dorsey’s sentiments. He noted that there has been a rash of crime in the area recently, specifically thefts. Riter himself was a victim, having two weed-eaters and a saw stolen.
Riter noted he understands that the state’s finances are tight, but he remarked that the closest state police detachments will now be in Paden City and Moundsville. He is concerned about the extra pressure on the sheriff’s office.
“I just don’t think it is a good idea,” Riter said of the closure.
In his letter to the governor, Assessor Lemley requested that authority figures reconsider the closure of the detachment, and he asked that the detachment stay open.
Lemley is not alone in his disapproval of the lack of notification of the detachment closure.
Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught was critical of the way the news was brought to the attention of stakeholders. Haught had noted that he learned of the closure through social media.
“No one from the West Virginia State Police has contacted me about the closing,” Haught said on Nov. 22, the day a news release was issued regarding the closure.
“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 had stated.
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.”
Last week Delegate Dave Pethtel, of Wetzel County, also spoke out on the detachment’s closure.
Pethtel criticized that employees of the detachment, along with local elected officials, were not notified in advance of the imminent closure.
“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 last week. “However,” he said, “I have a clear conscience. I did everything possible to keep it open,” he said.
In the Nov. 22 press release from the WVSP, Colonel Smithers said the WVSP 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.”
The release stated that “it is not economically feasible in today’s climate to maintain a physical detachment in each community across our state.”
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.