Point discusses retaining police officers

POINT PLEASANT — The City of Point Pleasant is facing a familiar dilemma, along with many other municipalities, and that is losing police officers to other agencies which are paying higher salaries.

At Monday’s regular meeting of Point Pleasant City Council, Mayor Brian Billings opened a sealed envelope from the Point Pleasant Police Department (PPPD) containing the resignation letter of K9 Officer Justin Veith to accept employment with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. Veith’s last day is June 14. Veith had recently completed training with Jerry, the PPPD’s new K9, which was purchased entirely with grant money and donations to the PPPD to establish a new K9 unit in the city. Veith wrote the grants and spearheaded the movement to establish the K9 unit, with around $10,000 raised for the dog and the associated training at no cost to the taxpayer.

With Veith’s resignation, this leaves a question mark as to what will happen with the dog which was not only trained with Veith but is being housed with Veith. The discussion around the council table included the dog having to be retrained with a new K9 handler or even possibly talking to county officials about sharing expenses for the dog. These were all informal discussions and no decisions on the dog were made at Monday’s meeting though it was decided members of the police committee would meet next Monday to discuss not only the dog but the issue of pay rates for officers.

Councilwoman Elaine Hunt stressed retaining officers is a serious problem and pay rates should be reexamined with Councilman Bob Rulen saying the city has lost four officers to other departments since he took office in 2012 – officers who left for better paying agencies. This latest resignation is nothing new but was the latest to highlight an existing problem for many municipalities dealing with staying within their budgets. Rulen also said it costs the city $11,000 to provide each new officer with the required, standard training through the police academy.

In other council news:

Council approved a one time donation to the Fort Randolph Committee of $2,500 to pay for summer help to keep the fort open this summer for visitors. The fort will be open Thursday-Sunday. The fort recently held its battle reenactment and has been included in the Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail. In 2009, Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail gained status as a State Scenic Byway by the West Virginia Division of Highways. With a primary route length of 44 miles, the scenic byway stretches from Nitro to Point Pleasant, closely following the Kanawha River and intersecting the various communities that have grown up along the waterway. This includes Point Pleasant, Leon, Eleanor, Nitro, Buffalo, Winfield and Poca.

Two interpretative panels have been placed just outside the fort to explain the history of the structure, as well as the history of the area at the time it was erected. The panels provide information about Fort Randolph 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to visitors. The panels also have a code located in the corner that can be scanned by smartphones and linked to the River and Ridges website that contains a number of educational materials. However, by having the fort actually open, visitors can tour it and hear about its history from the tour guide who will be responsible for opening and closing the facility which is part of the tourism scene in Point Pleasant and a big part of Krodel Park, one of the city’s top recreational destinations.

Council approved the mayor seeking bids to pave a section of Robinson St.

Billings announced Derek Taylor, manager of Krodel Campground, was resigning effective at the end of this season. This means the city will need to find a replacement beginning around the first of November.

Terry Wallace, business owner of a property at 507 Main St., thanked the city for paving the alley behind the business. However, he said the measures to help curb flooding issues into the business had not been corrected with the paving.

More on this week’s council meeting in an upcoming edition of the Point Pleasant Register.