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Berkeley County to hire four new deputies

September 28, 2000

Berkeley County to hire four new deputies



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W, Va. - The Berkeley County Commissioners Thursday agreed to hire an additional four sheriff's deputies, using mostly federal money to increase the size of the force from 32 to 36 deputies.

The move comes after strong urging by Sheriff Ron Jones who told the commissioners the deputies were needed in the rapidly growing county.

The federal Department of Justice will pay $300,000 over three years as part of the Clinton administration program to hire 100,000 new police officers. The county must find $140,332 to match that amount.

The commissioners were concerned about paying that amount of money, and finding funds in future budgets to keep the deputies on the payroll when the federal grant ends. But Jones argued the county cannot ignore the growth.

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"We try to get new businesses here," Jones told the commissioners. "You can't expect to get new businesses and not have people come to work in them. And you have to protect those people."

Commissioner Robert Burkhart said he was concerned about the ongoing costs of cars, uniforms, guns and other equipment the county must pay when hiring deputies. A deputy that is paid $25,000 a year actually costs $50,000 when all other costs are added in, he said.

"You want to be careful of how much you spend," Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham said.

"The purpose is to get the money to help the county to grow," Jones said. "You live in the county. You deserve protection."

Burkhart, who has served as a commissioner most of the time since 1962, reflected on the growth.

"I remember when we had two deputies and now we have 32," he said.

Commissioner John Wright said now may be the time to consider moving to a law enforcement and emergency services system that operates countywide, rather than having separate city and county police agencies and paid and volunteer fire operations.

Wright said he thinks a single agency might save money and give added protection.

Jones cautioned that even with the money, it may take a while to hire the officers. With pay starting at $24,622 annually, it's hard to find people to do the job, he said.

"We're having problems getting people to apply," he said of attempts to fill two current openings. "It's hard to get people to come out here and put their life on the line for what we can pay."

The new officers likely could not be hired and working until the first of the year at the earliest, Jones said.

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