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Berkeley County offices seek additional personnel to cope with rapid growth

March 04, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith wants permission from the county commission to hire 10 more deputies to get West Virginia's fastest growing county closer to its recommended staffing level of 68 law enforcement officers.

Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine wants to add three people to help process papers and court matters for five Circuit Court judges and two family court judges who now preside in the county.

After Sine's request on Thursday came County Assessor Preston B. Gooden's plea for two more appraisers. Then Steve Allen, director of Berkeley County's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, asked the commission for 12 additional staff members to accommodate a number of safety and welfare concerns.

And the list of staffing requests for the next fiscal year - July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008 - does not end there.

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But without raising taxes, the prospects for filling any of the needs presented to the commission do not appear all that good, commission President Steven C. Teufel said.

Teufel said he does want to raise taxes, and noted the county's levy rate probably will be rolled back another year because of continued growth and increased property values.

"When it comes to hiring more personnel, I don't know if we're going to find the resources," Teufel said after Thursday's commission meeting.

The requests follow an already notable increase in the county's payroll, thanks in part to the opening of the Berkeley County Judicial Center at the end of 2006.

Since July 2006, the commission has approved the hiring of six deputies and 10 part-time court security officers for the consolidated center for magistrate, circuit and family courts and offices for the county's prosecuting attorney and probation offices at 380 W. South St.

The commission also has approved the hiring of additional staff for Sine, Smith's tax office and County Clerk John W. Small Jr., and six more people for the county's 911 center.

Though she didn't ask for more help in addition to the six positions approved in December, Berkeley County Central Dispatch Director Mary Kackley presented statistics that indicated her staff had handled more calls per dispatcher in the previous year than in neighboring Jefferson County, W.Va., and Frederick County, Va.

With the new positions, "we'll be at the (staffing) level of Jefferson County, but not at the (call volume) level," Kackley said.

After making his presentation, Smith said he doubted he would get what he asked for, but was hopeful for some help.

"I know I'm not going to get 10 deputies," Smith said. "Maybe I'll get five."

County leaders are expected to make their budget decisions in the coming weeks, and must mail their financial plans for the coming year to state officials in Charleston by March 27, County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

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