The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 15, 2013

All running smoothly as Scouts converge on the Summit

Finding enough troopers to keep things running smoothly and securely at the Boy Scouts Jamboree posed no problem for West Virginia State Police Superintendent Jay Smithers.

For many, it was a simple matter in life of moving from a tan-and-green uniform in one’s halcyon youth to one of forest green in adulthood.

“Actually, we’ve got a lot of former Scouts, and several Eagle Scouts, who became troopers,” Smithers said Monday, as some 800 busloads of youngsters converged into a staging area at Bradley for the start of the 10-day Jamboree.

“We had a lot of volunteers for this detail. It wasn’t an issue to get folks to commit themselves to this. Hopefully, we’ll have a good time as well as the Boy Scouts themselves.”

Scouting wasn’t an option in Smithers’ boyhood hometown, so he never filled out a uniform.

“If I had had the opportunity, I would have been there,” the State Police superintendent said.

“I’m a farm boy. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it.”

Smithers expects to have a contingent of 60 troopers at the Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reserve over the entire event, and, on days when added security is needed — such as the Saturday night concert and fireworks show — their ranks could be swelled by an extra 25.

As traffic grew visibly heavier with buses rolling in from coast-to-coast, Smithers’ officers were beefed up with 36 troopers from Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia under a mutual agreement with the Department of Public Safety.

Fuel and overtime costs for the out-of-state officers will be borne by the state.

“When we put the requests out for some assistance, they jumped on board real quick,” Smithers said.

Traffic control is one consideration, but so is security, which explains why troopers will maintain a 24/7 presence throughout the event.

“We hope everything goes very well,” Smithers said.

“We put a lot of work into this for months and months and months. Depending on how things go, we may be able to relax and release some of those troopers from time to time. This is the first one, so it’s a big learning curve for us, of course.”

Smithers has never seen anything of this magnitude in West Virginia, although there have been times when an extraordinary number of troopers were pressed into duty for extended periods.

“Those issues were completely different — mine strikes, flood details, that type of thing,” he said.

“This is a completely different animal for us.”

Smithers described as “adequate” the overall security detail at the Glen Jean complex.

“We certainly don’t want to send a message that it’s a lockdown facility, even though it’s tightly secure,” he said.

“Part of it is open to the public. It should be a win-win for everybody.”

As needed, some officers will likely be working in plainclothes, which is standard procedure in providing security, the superintendent said.

Smithers hopes to tear away from his duties in Charleston to visit the Scouts summit before the festival closes out July 25.

“Life goes on here,” he said. “Somebody has to stay here and mind the store.”

If security is as smooth as the traffic ran opening day, Smithers should have few worries.

Many shuddered at the prospect of hundreds of buses filled with Scouts creating a major snarl in the Bradley area, but nothing on that order had occurred by early afternoon, said Gary Hartley, a Scouting spokesman.

By mid-morning, some 265 buses had wheeled into a staging area, the final leg before heading to the reserve, “from all over the country,” Hartley said.

“Everything is going smoothly,” he said.

“The roads are all open. No roads are shut down. There are no traffic accidents. No backups or tie-ups. Everything is going fine. Traffic on 19 is wide open.”

Upwards of 40,000 scouts are expected for the event, and if opening day traffic control is a barometer, it appears to be smooth sailing.

Bobby Palmer, assistant chief of the Bradley-Prosperity Volunteer Fire Department, got up at 4 a.m. to muster his men and equipment, placing rescue vehicles and engines strategically around the area.

“We’ve actually got fire trucks staged all round Bradley, scattered throughout, providing coverage,” Palmer said.

“That way, if I need to get a truck in a hurry to a certain point I can get them there without having to sit in traffic congestion. So far, it’s going a lot smoother than we expected it to. The troopers are doing a really good job with it. And there is some military out there, too. There hasn’t been a single incident, which is a good thing.”

Palmer expects to have his entire department on standby, but not actually out in the strategic areas, except for what he considers the three biggest days — the opening, the Saturday night concert and fireworks show, and closing day.

“What people don’t realize is, they see our fire trucks out and we’re doing all this coverage protection, that all my guys are volunteers,” the assistant chief said.

Palmer said the fireworks extravaganza looms as the biggest show in West Virginia, based on the application on file with the state fire marshal’s office.

“It’s to be a 20-minute show,” he said.

“Well over 300 shots per minute. It’s supposed to be spectacular.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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