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Morgantown to use private company to ensure adequate parade staffing

MORGANTOWN — Although city employees will have first choice to provide traffic-control at future events such as parades, the city of Morgantown still intends to use a private traffic-control company to ensure adequate staffing is available. 

In a press release issued Tuesday, the city states its own employees, such as Morgantown Police officers, will receive priority when it comes to staffing parades, but an outside company will be used if needed.

“We certainly prefer that our parades are staffed by City of Morgantown employees,” City Manager Kim Haws said in the release, “but we felt that it was necessary to formulate a backup plan to make absolute sure that we can provide sufficient traffic control for these events.”  

Special event staffing has become the latest skirmish in the ongoing discontent between the city’s police department and city hall. 

The issue came to a head earlier this summer when the city was forced to cancel the Morgantown Pride Parade after a short-staffed MPD said it couldn’t muster enough officers to ensure public safety during the event. 

It didn’t go unnoticed that the Monongalia County Fair parade had no such staffing issues when it marched down High Street just over one month later.  

Brandon Viola, president of the Monongalia and Preston County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #87, told The Dominion Post the cancellation of the Pride Parade “had less to do with staffing shortages and more to do with the city’s ever-changing interpretation of their own personnel rules.” 

Viola explained some events are guaranteed overtime for officers who volunteer, while others are not, and some events are said to be guaranteed overtime when officers sign up to work them but are not when the officers go to fill out their timesheets. 

“Most officers are not willing to work outside their regularly scheduled shifts for unknown compensation,” Viola said. 

The MPD is currently short 20 officers, which represents more than a quarter of the department’s officer positions. 

While the department once had a special unit dedicated to staffing special events, persistent staffing issues have made such duties beyond an officer’s regular work schedule strictly voluntary. 

According to the city’s press release, Haws has authorized the payment of overtime for city employees who work the following parades: Morgantown Pride, Monongalia County Fair, UHS Homecoming, MHS Homecoming, WVU Homecoming, Christmas and Veterans’ Day. 

The city notes the use of employees who are regularly scheduled to work during the hours of these events will be encouraged, but overtime has been authorized to help meet staffing requirements. If staffing requirements still cannot be met, the city will supplement traffic control with a contracted company. 

Morgantown Communications Director Drew Bailey said the city has spoken with multiple traffic-control companies but doesn’t have any agreements in place at this time.

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