Mon Commission sets aside $70,000 to update CCTV equipment after recent vandalism of courthouse square

MORGANTOWN — Flowers, mulch and unicycles in the Monongalia County Courthouse fountain prompted the county commission to approve $71,951 worth of improvements to the courthouse’s closed circuit television (CCTV) system.

The expenditure was among the items taken up during Wednesday’s regular meeting.

Commission President Tom Bloom said that in separate incidents in recent weeks, people could be seen climbing on the fountain and jumping on it with unicycles, and placing mulch and flowers dug from the square into the fountain.

“It was obvious when we had an incident on the courthouse square a couple weeks ago that we have some blind spots around our building. This will significantly correct it and cover not only the building, but around the whole perimeter,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said.

Commissioner Ed Hawkins said the upgraded system will provide improved clarity and functionality that could help police identify vandals. He said both acts were caught on the existing system, but the images aren’t clear.

The commission held a rededication ceremony for the square last month after a $2.1 million overhaul.

“The issue is we don’t want this to get started and not address it. It starts small. We’ve had people trashing the place overnight. We just want to keep it nice,” Bloom said, noting, “The point is, it’s not a park.”

In other news, the commission will request a meeting with representatives of The Connecting Link after the nonprofit reached out to the county for $10,000 in emergency funding.

In a pair of letters, Executive Director Jone Webb explained that the agency endured substantial funding reductions over the last two years, resulting in staffing cuts and the closure of its Preston County office.

“Over the past two years, our funding has been severely cut by United Way of Mon/Preston Counties threatening our ability to remain a collaborative entity assisting those in need,” Webb explained, noting the cut represents $50,000 used to pay staff salaries.

Connecting Link assists people with utility disconnections, evictions, first month’s rent, prescription medication and transportation.

The commission also heard from MECCA 911 Director Jimmy Smith, who said the county is now fully text-to-911 capable after a nearly yearlong process.

Smith said calling 911 should always be the first priority, but there are instances in which a person may not be able to speak. He said texts should not include abbreviations or emojis.

“People don’t realize a domestic situation or something like that … this is where the value, I think, of this truly is,” Hawkins said.

The commission also:

Approved a $10,000 bud-get request from the Clay District Fair

Moved a property located between 3rd Avenue and 4th Avenue to the complaint stage at the request of the county’s dilapidated property enforcement agency.

The property is owned by Cathryne Phillippi.

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