County Commissioners Approve Financing Drug Dog for Sheriff’s Department
Back on June 28, 2022, seventeen Pocahontas County residents from the Buckeye, Seebert, and the Brush Country Road areas of the county stormed into a County Commission Special Meeting. They expressed frustration and anger about the way drug houses in their neighborhoods were ruining the quality of their lives, citing threats, gunfire, speeding cars all night long, and one person even described bombs being set off near their home on a regular basis. They expressed disappointed with what they perceived as a lack-luster response by responding law enforcement officers to their calls to 911 about these issues. Some suggested that the Sheriff’s Department should obtain a certified drug dog to help put a stop to the drug activity in the county.
Later, in the fall there were several shootings in the Marlinton area, one resulting in a homicide, which all appear to be at least indirectly related to the use of illegal drugs.
At their March 7th meeting, the commissioners proposed financing a drug dog for the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Jeff Barlow told the commissioners that he wanted to acquire a drug dog from an Ohio company, K-9 International, which is a well-respected source for supplying K-9 dogs to law enforcement agencies. Barlow explained that he wanted a multi-purpose dog, which would be trained not only in drug detection, but also as a tracking dog and as an evidence recovery dog. He pointed out that because of all the hiking related activity in this area, it is not unusual for people to become lost in the national forest, and having a tracking dog may save lives. He said the dog would not be a “patrol dog,” instead it would be a gentle dog, not trained to chase and bite fleeing criminals.
The Sheriff said that K-9 International will also train a Deputy to work with the dog they supply. He said the cost would be forty to fifty thousand dollars which would be for the dog, equipping a patrol car with a K-9 cage, and a kennel. He said food and vet bills are not included in that cost. He said Deputy Shinaberry has expressed an interest in being the dog’s handler. Barlow said K-9 International includes a 5 year “work-ability and health” guarantee with the purchase of their dogs.
The commissioners unanimously approved a motion by Commissioner Rebinski to provide up to $50,000 from their available Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LA CTF) to the Sheriff’s Department to acquire the dog. Commission President Walt Helmick said continued financial support for this will be provided by using any money awarded to the county as a result of their opioid litigation lawsuit. Helmick added that “even without the opioid settlement, the drug situation in the county is so dire, we would still do this.”
Additionally, the commissioners voted to appoint Dr. Kelby Faulkiner as the Medical Director for the new Pocahontas County Ambulance Service. Dr. Faulkiner is also the Medical Director of PMH, and will donate his services to the new county ambulance agency. They also hired Christine Rebinski, a Paramedic, as a part-time training officer/certified EMS instructor at $18.00 per hour and Kenneth Buster Varner as a part-time EMT/driver at $15.00 per hour. Since Christine Rebinski is Commissioner John Rebinski’s wife, he recused himself from voting on her selection, and left the room prior to the vote.
In other actions, the commissioners:
- Delayed a decision on removing a representative from an estate until the next meeting.
- Administratively closed 19 unprogressed and non-responsive estates, as allowed by a new WV law.
- Agreed to let the Pocahontas County Little Leagues use space in the ARC building for batting practice.
- Approved the 911 Center to spend $363,634 from their 911 funds to replace the Thomastown 911 Tower with one that will have a lot more capacity.
- Approved the $31,680 EMS 2020 grant award.
- Approved the $65,000 HSGP Grant to install license plate readers, including one at US 219 and Route 3i9 in Marlinton.
- Approved the Broadband Council’s application to the National Forest Service to allow them to string fiber through part of the Mon Forest as they construct their ARC Broadband Project.
- Approved the 2024 Community Correction Grant for the Day Report Center.
- Approved the Community Development Block Grant Evidentiary Materials for the County Public Service District’s Thornwood Water Extension Project.
- Appointed Kevin Stitzinger as the emergency Management Representative and Ross Harrison as the Durbin Greenbrier Valley Railroad Representative to the Local Emergency Planning Board.
- Agreed to write a Letter of Support for obtaining a Congressionally Directed Spending Request (ore earmark) to support the building of a new 911 Center near PMH.