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Request for Putnam County sheriff’s deputy approved

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD, W.Va. — An additional sheriff's deputy may soon be on the road in Putnam County.

Sheriff Steve Deweese presented the county commission with a request Tuesday for $13,000 to shuffle some positions to achieve a more suitable rank structure and add a deputy.

Commissioners approved his request pending a legal review by the county attorney.

The sheriff's office runs four shifts, each led by a sergeant and a corporal.

"We just had one corporal on each shift," Deweese said. "Right now we've got a sergeant that's off with an injury and we've got a corporal that's off with an injury, so I've got a deputy running that shift."

A second shift has also recently been run by a deputy as both the sergeant and corporal have had to take time off.

Deweese wants to add a second corporal to each shift to avoid that situation in the future.

To do that, he plans to promote four officers to the rank of corporal, raising their salaries incrementally. To offset the salary increase, he plans to replace a retiring sergeant with a deputy instead of promoting another sergeant.

The retiring sergeant has been serving as a full-time bailiff. The full-time bailiff position will be replaced with three part-time civilian bailiffs, and that's the part of the plan that requires legal review.

State law requires a deputized officer to be available to judges, but county attorney Jennifer Scragg Karr and Deweese believe that if the circuit judges accept a civilian bailiff, they aren't required to assign a sworn deputy to the court.

Deweese said he spoke to the circuit judges and magistrates, and they've all indicated to him that civilian bailiffs would be acceptable as long as they have military or police backgrounds.

The retiring sergeant has agreed to be one of the part-time civilian bailiffs, and Deweese told the commission that the others also meet that criteria.

Karr asked the commission for time to review a relevant case to be certain that civilian bailiffs, with supervision by a sergeant in the sheriff's department, would be legal, so the commission approved Deweese's request pending her review.

The $13,000 is the total additional funding the sheriff's department needs to make all the rank and salary changes.

"To me it seems like a great bargain," Commission President Joe Haynes said. "If you can spend just a shade over $13,000 to put another deputy on the road, I think it's a no-brainer."

The commission also heard budget reports from three agencies. The commission asked all of the agencies and departments it supports to present regular budget updates in the wake of a financial breakdown at the Putnam County Health Department.

Drew Dunlap of the Putnam County Development Authority, Linda Bush of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Steve Cristo of the Putnam County Library all gave updates on their budgets.

Dunlap has been on the job only two months but expressed confidence in the authority's prospects for the year.

Bush said the convention and visitors bureau finished last year with a $22,000 surplus because of increased hotel and motel tax revenue, and she hopes to use that money for a small grant program to help county groups promote tourism and events.

Cristo briefed the commission on issues with some library buildings but said library patronage has not suffered from the rise of e-books partly because e-book lending has become popular.

An update on the health department from Lolita Kirk, the acting director and an employee of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, was postponed until the next meeting.

The commission went into a closed-door executive session twice, the first time to interview a candidate for the board of parks and recreation and the second time to discuss a personnel issue.

Commissioners would not comment on the personnel session except to confirm that Emergency Medical Services Director Cecil Kimble was in the meeting.

Haynes said he expected the issue to be shared with the public at the next meeting.

The commission meets at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the county courthouse in Winfield.


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