Bringing out the big guns
By Kevin Dye
West Jefferson Village Council approved an ordinance Monday night to adopt a new weapons policy for the West Jefferson Police Department.
The new Patrol Rifle/Carbine Policy is for the use, handling and storage of patrol carbine rifles. The department have just added M-16 rifles, a 5.56 mm semiautomatic rifle that can be operated in a three-round burst or full automatic fire.
“This is something new for our department,” Lieutenant Gary McNeal said. “Since these weapons have already been issued, we need to pass this before the new employee handbook is finished. We have the rifles now and we need a policy to cover the rifles in the line of duty.”
The policy was created by Police Chief Terry Ward. He said the policy was modeled after the London Police Department’s policy and several other law enforcement agencies who also use the specialized weapons. Ward said that 495 Ohio law enforcement agencies utilize the rifles.
“We have never had these weapons,” Ward said. “It’s just another tool for us. They are for a violent situation and terrorist situations. That’s a big thing for Battelle who is in the village and we are the first responders for Battelle.”
Battelle assumed, at a meeting in February, that the West Jefferson Police Department had such rifles at the time and they did not. The new Patrol/Carbine Policy stipulates that the new rifles are not to be used for routine calls. They are to be used in any potentially dangerous or deadly force situation where an officer has reason to believe that deployment of the patrol/rifle carbine will contribute to the safe resolution of the incident or diminish risk to the officer or the public. Such situations would include an active shooter or terrorist incident at the Battelle facility. The policy also states that an officer deploying the weapon does so in compliance with the Use of Force Policy and the Ohio Revised Code.
In other business, council passed an ordinance that created the position of Public Service, Water, Sewer and Income Tax Clerk. The ordinance makes the new position a full-time position, because of the need for the individual to be in the Tax Department one day a week.
“We are making the Income Tax Department a part-time position, which is saving us about $40,000 a year,” Council member Ron Garver said.
Council then un-tabled the ordinance to fill the newly created position (Oct. 15 meeting) and they approved the hiring of Judith Durban to the Public Service, Water, Sewer and Income Tax Clerk.
Council also approved an ordinance to authorize various supplemental appropriations in the general fund. Among the supplemental appropriations were an unscheduled $20,000 payout to retired Police Chief Dennis Gates, unscheduled $5,000 to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, $6,000 of under budgeted salary to village building inspector, $15,000 for Planning and Zoning contractual services for Project Silo (Target’s new food distribution project), and $25,000 for lighting damage to the police department radio equipment.
Council member Ron Garver questioned when the village knew when Chief Gates was going to retire. Finance Director Jack Herrel said that the village was informed in February of this year and that the cost could not have been budgeted for in 2012. Herrel also said that much of the money would be reimbursed to the village after payment.
“It’s a timing thing,” Herrel said. “Over half of this amount the village will get back. The Target money needs to be appropriated before it is repaid to the village. The police salaries were an unscheduled payout and the insurance will cover the cost of the police radio equipment damaged by lightning. These are extraordinary items that pop up and can’t always be planned for.”
Council member Cory Coburn questioned the under budgeted salary for building inspector Paul Casa and wondered why the assistant position to Casa had not kept Casa’s workload from increasing.
“There are extra things that he has been involved in that is over and above his normal duties,” Mayor Darlene Steele said. “He was involved with the bar fire building situation downtown and the extra work with Project Silo. There are other things that have come up as well.”
Finally, council members Ron Garver and Sheila Nelson thanked Mayor Steele for making the decision to move the village’s Halloween Trick or Treat time from the night of Wednesday, Oct. 31 to the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 3, due to inclement weather.
“I received a lot of nice comments from people,” Nelson said. “I even had some dads thank us because they can’t usually go along with their kids on Trick or Treat because they work during the week.”