MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission approved the hiring of two additional deputies in an effort to help the sheriff’s department fill the void created by the West Virginia State Police’s diminishing local presence.
Sheriff Perry Palmer, along with Chief Deputy Al Kisner and Captain Mark Ralston, made the request during the Jan. 31 regular commission meeting.
The West Virginia State Police stopped handling 911 calls Jan. 15, due to shortfalls in manpower and funding. According to The Dominion Post archive, the last class of new troopers entered the force four years ago.
“How it used to work was we would alternate calls. We would get one, then the state police would get one. It’s just the fact they didn’t have the personnel to do it,” Palmer said. “Then, last June, they no longer had a midnight shift. We’re covering their midnight shift.”
With no 911 coverage coming from the state police, the sheriff’s department saw an increase of 320 calls (1,750) over the same two-week period last year (1,430) — or about 21 additional calls per day.
Ralston provided a breakdown of call numbers indicating the sheriff’s department would actually need six new deputies to handle the additional calls.
The commission unanimously approved Palmer to move forward with the hires with the understanding that the commission will likely need to supplement the sheriff’s budget for the personnel additions before the end of the fiscal year. Palmer said he estimates an additional $38,000 is needed to make the hires.
Because deputy is a civil service position, the department cannot select applicants based on certification and experience, but must instead accept the applicants in the order they’ve applied — meaning new hires are still potentially eight to 10 months from hitting the road.