Commission approves PRO grant applications

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Commission approved applications for three grants to support the continued presence of county sheriff’s deputies at three Brooke County schools.

Cpl. John White of the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department said he will seek three grants for prevention resource officers, including himself, at Brooke High School and Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

The officers are assigned to serve as liaisons between youth and law enforcement and are trained to respond to emergency situations at schools. They also speak to classes about various legal issues and brought an anti-bullying program to the schools last year.

Lt. Larry Palmer is the PRO at Wellsburg Middle School, and Cpl. Darin Pizer is the PRO at Follansbee Middle School.

The applications are for two $20,000 grants and an another for $15,000, each from separate programs under the state Division of Justice and Community Services. Each requires a 10 percent match.

Two grants through the division currently support White’s and Palmer’s presence at their schools. Pizer’s presence at Follansbee Middle is supported entirely by county and school board funds.

White, who was called for comment, noted he and other PROs have been funded by one or two grants in the past, but as funds for such programs have been cut, the sheriff’s department has sought additional grants and financial support from the school board.

He acknowledged the county also faces competition for state funds from an increased number of PROs in the state.

The first West Virginia county to adopt a PRO, Brooke County has been joined by 27 other counties, with approximately 70 PROs in the state.

In other business, the commission:

Announced a public hearing will be held during its next regular meeting at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to accept comment on the use of federal Department of Housing funds issued to the Northern Panhandle HOME Consortium.

The funds currently are used for the First-Time Home Buyers program administered by C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. The program helps individuals and families obtain homes in Brooke and Hancock counties by providing down payment and closing cost assistance up to $10,000, with the loan forgiven if the homebuyer has lived there five years.

But the funds also may be used for other purposes, such as helping low-income residents to make repairs to their homes or remove dilapidated structures to create space for low-income housing.

Appointed Edward DiPino of Weirton to the county’s economic development authority. A Realtor, developer and retired teacher, DiPino also serves on the county’s planning commission.

Norm Schwertfeger, vice chairman of the economic development authority, said the board is seeking community members and representatives of Follansbee, Wellsburg, the Brooke County school board and local industries to fill five vacant seats.

The board meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Brooke County Public Library.

The county building commission, which was formed to pursue improvements to the county’s buildings and funding for them, also has vacant seats. It meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the county courthouse.

Letters of interest should be sent to the office of County Clerk Sylvia Benzo.