Richwood?s detachment is closing shop by the end of August in a cost-saving move by the State Police ? one that has four legislators in the region concerned about compromising public safety.

In a letter to State Police Superintendent David Lemmon, the lawmakers disagree the Richwood closing would be cost effective and suggest it will mean less protection for residents of the area.

But Lt. Col. Steve Tucker, the deputy superintendent, said the Department of Public Safety pays a monthly lease on the building along with utility bills for a detachment that consists of one sergeant and two troopers.

?Often, there?s no trooper working from that detachment,? he said Wednesday.

?Actually, they work that part of Nicholas County jointly with the detachment at Summersville. By consolidating those three in Richwood with four in Summersville, we actually think we can be more efficient in our schedule and provide the same or better coverage and thereby save the utility costs and rent for that office.?

Delegate Joe Talbott, D-Webster, joined Sens. Randy White, D-Webster; and Shirley Love, D-Fayette; and Delegate Sam Argento, D-Nicholas, in protesting the move in a letter to Col. Lemmon.

Mayors of both cities, along with the four lawmakers, planned to meet today in Summersville with Lemmon.

?Richwood?s location on the border of northern Greenbrier and western Pocahontas counties, as well as the vast Monongahela National Forest, now being used by the Rainbow Family gathering, could make police protection hours away, with additional costs derived from the price of fuel and the cost of additional manpower hours,? the four wrote.

Most of the time, however, calls in the Richwood end of the county are handled by the Summersville detachment, given the fact three officers there are spread over 24 hours, seven days a week, with days off and vacation considered, Tucker said.

?To be very honest, that office in Richwood to some degree creates a false sense of security for the people in that end of the county,? the officer said.

Besides, he noted, two troopers live near Richwood and will be patrolling the area, responding to calls from their homes in that end of Nicholas, he said.

?We haven?t notified the landlord and set a final date, but it will be approximately 40 days out from now,? Tucker added.

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Talbott questioned how the move could save money, noting that troopers would still be obligated to handle administrative and paper work at the Summersville detachment, even if some lived near Richwood.

?The cost of gasoline is about $2.30 a gallon,? he said.

?Going to Richwood and back to Summersville is about, say, 50 miles, and the cruisers get maybe 12 to 14 miles a gallon. That?s going to cost quite a few bucks, $20 to $25 just to driver over there and back.?

A few trips by three officers and any money saved by renting a building and paying utilities would be eaten up by fuel costs, the delegate said.

?I don?t think it?s going to be cost effective,? Talbott said. ?I don?t think if you put the numbers down that it?s going to save money. I don?t think very much thought went into this.?

Moreover, Talbott said numerous accidents occur on a mountainous road after leaving Richwood in the direction of Mill Point, and many motorists are known to get stranded in winter travel from Slatyfork to the ranger station.

?I think it will compromise the police protection there, for sure,? he added.

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Love said Summersville has a police force about 20, complemented by the sheriff?s department in that city.

?You have an influx of law enforcement already there, and with the price of gasoline, you would have to send troopers to Summersville and back to Richwood,? he said.

Moreover, the senator said, state troopers can pursue investigations across the county line into Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties out of the Richwood detachment, while local officers are confined to their city and county jurisdictions.

?There are so many elderly people in Richwood,? Love said. ?It?s the psychological thing to know that police are in the area.?

Love said it would be more logical to close the Summersville detachment and move the operation to Richwood, rather than shut down the latter office.

?I?m hoping they will explore all avenues before making the decision to close,? he said.

? E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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