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Renovated state police facility a team effort

October 19, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Retired West Virginia State Police Maj. Robert "Bob" Price remembers working out of an old, two-story, white building off U.S. 11 when he was the supervising district sergeant for eight officers in 1964.

The new detachment offices off Edwin Miller Boulevard were not under construction until the spring of 1965, when Price said he was transferred to Elkins, W.Va.

"I'm the last of the '42 school," said Price, 88, who joined several other retired State Police officers Wednesday for a grand opening ceremony at the detachment headquarters off Trooper Drive to celebrate the $1.8 million renovation and expansion of the agency's offices.

Now retired, both Deke Walker and James Humphrey, who each held the district sergeant post, recalled living and working at the detachment for several months when they first arrived in Martinsburg.

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Walker said he endured 11 months of "noisy" conditions at the barracks and even made an arrest when a man under the influence mistakenly walked into the detachment offices in the middle of the night.

Now a Berkeley County magistrate, Humphrey said he stayed at the barracks for six months until he could move his family from Grant County.

"It was cold in the winter," said Humphrey, who recalled continually removing from the building dead birds that had somehow entered the ventilation system.

Except for a stairwell, the renovations left little trace of the past, Humphrey said.

"My old bedroom is the new evidence room," recalled Troop 2 Capt. Robert A. Blair, who thanked Gov. Joe Manchin and other elected leaders for helping secure the funding in 2004 and 2005.

Col. David Lemmon, superintendent of the West Virginia State Police, credited state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, for his support of the agency's needs.

"This guy, I beat the hell out of him," Lemmon said of his lobbying of Unger.

Unger praised Lemmon's consideration of the "troops out in the field every day" and specifically credited the efforts of Dels. John Doyle, Bob Tabb and Locke Wysong, all D-Jefferson, and the governor's support for making the detachment project a reality.

"You need both chambers (of the legislature) to make anything like this happen," said Unger, who credited Manchin for spurring progress on W.Va. 9 improvements, the new DMV office in Jefferson County and other initiatives.

Manchin noted Unger's persistence with efforts to get the Detachment funding and later noted his own initiative to beef up State Police resources to target drug-related crime, which he said is reaching "epidemic proportions."

"If we don't ... drugs will bring this country to its knees," Manchin said.

In his remarks, the governor also saluted the efforts of the State Police and other law enforcement officers who risk their lives to serve the community

"We'll always be behind you 1,000 percent. Thank you," Manchin said.

At the end of his remarks, the governor recognized Trooper Vincent E. Branham for his military service in Iraq as a staff sergeant in the 80th Division of the U.S. Army Reserves. Branham, who is stationed in Jefferson County, returned from Iraq in July 2006 after a 12-month deployment.

When asked if he expected to go back, Branham said "not anytime soon, hopefully."

Manchin presented Martinsburg detachment commander Sgt. Eric D. Burnett with a certificate of recognition for the "exemplary" work of troopers and members of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force in the Debra Ann Fielder homicide investigation.

After the ceremony, Manchin said he was committed to tackling the cost of living concerns of all state employees in the region in the coming regular session of the legislature, not just the State Police.

"We're looking at anything you can imagine," Manchin said.

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