Parkersburg council OKs police bonus

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg City Planner Sam Tuten, left, hands a document related to a proposed alley abandonment to City Attorney Joe Santer during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The document outlined an agreement between property owners that council voted to include as a requirement for the abandonment.

PARKERSBURG — A $10,000 hiring bonus for certified police officers was approved on final reading by City Council Tuesday.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce has said the ordinance is aimed at attracting officers who have already been trained and certified for an upcoming civil service test. That will allow them to get oriented and out on the road in nine weeks instead of nine to 12 months.

The city has been seeing fewer people come out to take the test, with the most recent one yielding just 18 applicants and none who qualified to advance in the hiring process.

At the Aug. 28 council meeting, some council members suggested spreading the bonus out over a period of two to four years but ultimately voted 8-0, with Councilman Mike Reynolds absent, to approve the ordinance as submitted.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman J.R. Carpenter proposed an amendment making anyone who has previously been a Parkersburg Police officer ineligible for the bonus.

“If they left and they’re using this incentive to come back, they’re not eligible for it,” he said.

Reynolds said he wouldn’t consider a former officer returning a negative.

“If somebody leaves, we want them to come back, don’t we?” he said.

Joyce noted making a significant change to the ordinance would require another reading and asked council to reject the amendment, with the civil service test planned for October.

The amendment failed in a 6-2 vote, with only Carpenter and Fox voting for it and Councilman Bob Mercer absent.

Fox moved to make the bonus a one-time incentive, meaning someone couldn’t join the department, get the bonus after one year, leave and come back later to receive the bonus again.

Councilman Eric Barber said he would support the amendment if not for the timing issue and offered to sponsor an ordinance to that effect after the current one was approved.

That amendment also failed 6-2. Council then voted unanimously to approve the ordinance as written.

In other business, council approved 8-0 the first reading of an ordinance abandoning an alley south of 26th Street and west of Fairview Avenue.

It has been used for years as a resident’s driveway, Council President John Reed said.

“This will get the city Public Works Department out of the position of graveling it each year,” he said.

While most such abandonments result in the road being split up among adjacent property owners, the resident reached an agreement with her neighbors that she could take the alley to use as a driveway. Fox expressed concern about cutting off the access for neighboring property owners, but Reed and City Planner Sam Tuten said all three owners had reached an agreement that an easement for those properties would be included with the quitclaim deed.

Council voted 8-0 to include that requirement, which was approved by the Planning Commission but not submitted with the rest of the material to council, in the ordinance.

The ordinance was then unanimously approved.