Courthouse nabs weaponry

NEW CUMBERLAND – Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher came to the county commission meeting on Thursday, in part, to tell them that the new courthouse security system is working.

In the 26 business days that the X-ray machine and walk-through metal detector have been in use, courthouse security officers have found three credit card knives, a ceramic knife, tear gas canisters and Mace, among other things, Fletcher said.

In total, 134 items have been temporarily confiscated from courthouse visitors since the system became operational on Feb. 3, he said.

“That ought to raise your eyebrows in terms of what’s been coming into the courthouse,” Fletcher told commissioners.

Fletcher said 7,128 people have used the courthouse since Feb. 3 – an average daily rate of 275 people.

None of the confiscations resulted in criminal charges, Fletcher said.

“It’s not that people aren’t allowed to have these things. They’re just not allowed to have them in the courthouse,” he said.

Most of the items were returned to their owners as they left the courthouse, he said.

Prior to the new courthouse entrance opening, Fletcher created a civilian division within the sheriff’s department to handle bailiff and courthouse security duties. He hired 15 part-time officers, many of them retired from law enforcement, to fill the civilian division.

Also Thursday, commissioners approved requests from Fletcher to purchase up to $800 in equipment for the Special Response Team and to purchase six new vehicles at a cost of $149,984.

The vehicles will replace “aging and non-cost-effective vehicles in our fleet,” Fletcher said in a letter to commissioners. “I am anticipating this purchase will enable me to rotate medium-mileage vehicles to officers who, due to their duties, travel less miles.”

Fletcher said he plans to use the West Virginia state bidding process to purchase three 2014 Ford Sedan Police Interceptors ($26,017 each), two 2014 Ford Police Utility Vehicles ($26,537 each) and one 2014 Chevrolet Sedan standard vehicle ($18,859).

The sheriff’s department has an additional $28,000 budgeted for related equipment such as radios, light bars, decals and graphics, Fletcher said.

In other business Thursday, commissioners:

Approved County Clerk George Foley’s request to solicit bids for the digital scanning and indexing of archived records kept by the clerk’s office. Commissioners already have approved $135,000 from the Special Projects Fund for the scanning project.

Approved a request from Robert Vidas, executive director of the county’s Office of Communications and Technology, to solicit architect/engineer bids for the project to replace the roof and coping on the 1968 courthouse annex.

Agreed to advertise grass-cutting bid packages for the following four areas: Gas Valley Road county offices; Flatts, Union and Methodist cemeteries in New Manchester; Three Springs Drive Cemetery, Cove Valley Playground and Peter Tarr Furnace in Weirton; and Laurel Hollow Park and Clarke Field in Newell, Lawrenceville Park and Crestview Park (state Route 2).

Hired Richelle Atkinson as a new member of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Reserve.

Hired Nikki Winters and Gail Seevers as part-time dispatchers in the 911 Dispatch Center.

Approved Vidas’ request to solicit bids for the renovation/replacement of the domestic hot water system at the Hancock County Animal Shelter.

Donated $5,000 to the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote the West Virginia Police Canine Association’s statewide training seminar, which is being held in Hancock County in April.

Donated $1,000 to the Chester Park Board for the purchase of a new outdoor maintenance/supply shed.

Applied for West Virginia Justice Assistance grants for the Prevention Resource Officer program and the Drug Task Force.

Applied for a $4,000 Governor’s Community Participation Grant for the Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)