By Tina Alvey
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
As the pressure rises on law enforcement to curb the rash of methamphetamine labs popping up all over Greenbrier County, the Spa City Police Department is nearing a full complement of officers after more than a year of personnel fluctuations.
Police Chief William Wallcoen received permission from city council Monday evening to rehire a former officer who recently expressed interest in returning to the White Sulphur Springs PD.
That officer — whom Wallcoen identified as Dean Hall — has the advantage over other potential candidates for the position in that he is already trained and is familiar with the city’s streets and neighborhoods, the chief said.
In addition to Hall, who spent four years on the city police force in the late 1990s, another recently-hired officer is expected to be ready for duty right away, having graduated from the State Police Academy’s training program only days after Monday’s council meeting. And yet another new hire will start at the academy within the next few weeks.
When that last officer graduates from the training program, the White Sulphur Police Department will be at full force, with one part-time and seven full-time officers, Wallcoen said.
Maintaining a full complement of officers is particularly important now, according to the chief, citing the proliferation of meth labs in the western end of the county.
“They’re inching their way here,” Wallcoen warned. “The threat is getting larger and larger, and we need more officers on the street.”
Operating with one part-time and four full-time officers in June, the White Sulphur PD logged 832 regular hours and 13 hours of overtime, while answering 77 calls and making nine arrests.
White Sulphur City Council raised municipal fees by $1 for each residence and business in the city last year in an attempt to bring police officers’ salaries more in line with other law enforcement jobs in the county.
Wallcoen also asked city council to consider purchasing a pair of buildings across the street from City Hall to provide a more suitable home for the Police Department.
He said areas now being used in the City Hall building for evidence storage do not meet new requirements for evidence control, adding that current space is simply too cramped to meet all of the department’s needs.
Parking is another problem that would be solved by moving the PD out of the City Hall building and across the street, he said.
The buildings in question, which used to house retail businesses, are now owned by a church, Wallcoen said. St. Thomas Episcopal Church is willing to sell the property to the city for $125,000, according to the chief.
Council took the request under advisement.
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