Off-duty deputy to assist with delinquent payment collection

December 12, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An unruly customer has prompted the Berkeley County Public Service Water District to arrange to have an off-duty Berkeley County Sheriff's deputy present when the public utility collects delinquent payments each month at its office at 83 Monroe St.

"This particular gentlemen reached up and touched one of the ladies behind the window," water district Executive Director Paul Fisher told district board members Monday.

An agreement to retain the services of an off-duty deputy two afternoons a month for delinquent collection days was unanimously approved Monday by the utility's board. The county will be reimbursed at a rate of $30 to $35 per hour for two to four hours each day, Fisher said.

"We think it's a prudent security measure on those particular days," Fisher said. The water district installed a security camera system since the incident, Fisher said.

Berkeley County Council member Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr., the council's representative to the utility board, suggested the cost for a deputy would quickly add up and asked whether it would be less expensive to install protective glass at the water district's office.

While concerned about physical safety, Fisher said the utility's staff has dealt with "lot of verbal abuse" as well and the glass wouldn't change their behavior.

"Just the presence of an officer will make a huge difference," Fisher said. "They see that officer, they change their attitude. I think in that respect it will certainly be helpful."

Board member Ruby Kern, who wondered whether protective glass would be installed in the water district's new administration building that is being planned, said the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District's office had bulletproof glass installed at its office because people had shown up there with shotguns.

The water district's agreement with the sheriff's office can be voided at any time and board members appeared to be in agreement that a deputy might not always be needed.

"This is one of those things where we may not ... have to do it all the time," board chairman Greg Rhoe said.

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