Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston adding 19th deputy

KINGWOOD — Because of the money provided by the school levy for a school resource officer, another deputy will be added to the Preston County Sheriff’s Department.

The new position will bring the total number of deputies at the department to 19, plus Chief Deputy P.A. Pritt and Sheriff Dan Loughrie.

County Administrative Assistant Kathy Mace told county commissioners Tuesday that the board of education will pay the salary of Deputy M.A. Lewis to be at Preston High 10 months each year. The position was specified in the school levy passed by voters in February and has been approved by the commission and board of ed. Because of that and the fact two new deputies hired Tuesday will be paid less than the retiring officers they replaced, another deputy can be added at little to no cost, Mace said.

The position will cost the county less than $10,000 per year in future years that the levy position exists, she estimated.

Commissioners Dave Price, Don Smith and Samantha Stone gave Loughrie authority to begin the hiring process.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved the hiring of Justin Timothy Knotts and Reginald Martin Jr. as probationary deputies, beginning Sept. 16, at an annual salary of $32,000. Their hiring filled all vacancies that existed until Tuesday.

The Preston County Civil Service Commission for Deputies gives the written and physical tests for applicants for deputy sheriff. The commission provides the names of the three highest scoring applicants to the sheriff, who then does background checks and psychological exams.

This year, for the first time Mace could recall, the top three are already certified officers. That means the county will not have to pay to send them to the West Virginia State Police Academy for training.

That saves the county about $9,800 in salary and $1,700 tuition that would have been paid a deputy while at the academy, Mace said.

As experienced officers — Knotts from Kingwood Police and Martin from Star City Police — they will need less mentoring also, Pritt said. He said that the quality and number of applicants says something about the department and the work environment in Preston.

“It’s harder and harder to get people to even take the test,” Pritt said. “Our county, any county, it’s a problem all over the state. We’ve had a hard time getting people to apply, and it’s everywhere across the state.”

Also Tuesday, commissioners:

— agreed to lease a cruiser no longer being used by the sheriff’s department to the Tunnelton Volunteer Fire Department for $1 per month.

Commissioners also agreed to find out what is necessary in order to get an ambulance at the department. TVFD Chief Franklin Schnopp said since Tunnelton added EMS first responders in November 2018 it has taken 133 calls.

“I’m here for my community,” Schnopp said. “We need to do something.”

–set a hearing for 1 p.m. Oct. 21 to close 583 unprogressed estates.

–reappointed Commissioner Stone, Craig Rotruck, Bill Shockey, LaDeana Teets, Paul Webster and Mike Jenkins to the Preston County Economic Development Authority Board. The three-year terms end June 30, 2022.

Two people applied for an at-large position on the board, so commissioners delayed filling that spot.

— agreed to a $9,800 contract with The Mills Group. The firm will prepare specifications and bid estimates on repointing and resealing the exterior of the courthouse. The county will use the information to apply for a state courthouse improvement grant. If the grant is approved, the contract can count as the county’s matching funds.