Pocahontas County Commission Inquires About Courthouse Security
Marlinton, WV – A fight outside the Magistrate Courtroom office in the basement of the Pocahontas County Courthouse brought the discussion of courthouse security to the Pocahontas County Commission meeting Tuesday. When the fight broke out in the hallway outside the office, a panic button was pushed. 9-1-1 Director Bill McLaughlin explains what they do when a panic button is pushed in the courthouse.
“We immediately dispatch for law enforcement to respond to that office” he says.
“Then we try to get a hold of that office and find out what’s going on. That officer’s going to ask you as soon as he starts what is going on there; is there a gun involved. We need a little bit of information. We called back over there and they sorta hung up on us.”
Commission President David Fleming says he spoke with Magistrate Kathy Beverage after the event.
“From talking with Kathy, my impression is that they thought perhaps law enforcement hadn’t been called out yet, but you were checking to see if there really was an emergency before calling law enforcement” says Fleming.
“You’re covering two or three bases at one time” says McLaughlin. “You’re seeing if you’ve got an emergency and what you’ve got.”
“So when the panic button’s pushed, I was expressing to Kathy I would think the very first thing that should happen in case the phone is disabled or something, that law enforcement gets dispatched” says Fleming. “And you’re telling me that is what happens.”
“Right” says McLaughlin, “we immediately send law enforcement.”
McLaughlin says they want to relay information to the law enforcement officer as quickly as possible, so they won’t be going into a blind and potentially dangerous situation.
Beverage also complained about response time. But McLaughlin says an officer may not be readily available when a panic button is pushed, which could delay response time. Fleming says he will follow up with the Magistrate office to clear up any misunderstanding about the security system.
In other business, Commissioner Martin Saffer questioned Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese about his home confinement budget. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Saffer had contacted the West Virginia state auditors’ office for clarification of how home incarceration funding can be spent. Administrative Assistant Sue Helton says Saffer also asked her to review the Sheriff’s home confinement invoices.
“I went through home detention to find out how many auxiliary people were paid out of the home detention fund since July the 1st” says Helton.
“What does it show?” asks Saffer. “Does it show that they were paid for something other than home confinement duties?”
“Well, I don’t know” says Helton, “that’s question for the Sheriff I think. I don’t know if every one of these transports were home detention or not.”
Auxiliary force members have taken over much of the offender transportation duties in the Pocahontas Sheriff’s department. When Saffer asked for further explanation, Sheriff David Jonese refused, saying Saffer should have come to him first before contacting the state auditor.
“Well can we ask you?” asks Saffer. “Not now” responds Jonese. “You didn’t have the decency to ask me prior..”
“It’s not a question of decency” says Saffer. “It is a question of decency Mr. Saffer” says Jonese.
Commissioner Saffer urged the Sheriff to ensure that home confinement funds are only used for that purpose. No other action was taken on this issue.
The Commissioners did take the following actions Tuesday:
Voted to create a policy for implementation of a meal allowance for County Commission employees and contracted persons, allowing a maximum of $40.00 per day, up to $20.00 per meal
Approved up to 14 fuel cards for Woodford Oil for Sheriffs dept employees to use to fuel dept vehicles
Adopted a resolution to support a $10,000.00 Community Participation grant for the High Rocks Academy at no cost to the County
And approved the employment of Bradley Nelson as a full time law enforcement deputy. Nelson replaces Trent Herron, who was offered the position earlier this year, but recently told Sheriff Jonese he would be unable to take the job.
The next regular meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission will be on Tuesday, May 17th.