BUCKHANNON — Upshur County commissioners recently approved the purchase of a drug prevention dog that would be based at Buckhannon-Upshur High School but could be utilized countywide.
The commission unanimously voted Thursday to approve paying for 50 percent of a K-9 unit at the request of Cpl. Rocky Hebb of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, who serves as a Prevention Resource Officer at B-UHS. Hebb and Upshur County Sheriff David Coffman appeared before the commission at Thursday’s regular meeting to ask for permission to purchase the K-9 unit, which will serve as a drug prevention and detection dog.
Coffman said, “We discussed the type of dog that we wanted in our school system, and we don’t want anything aggressive; we can’t have an AJ (a German shepherd) anywhere around that school system. We want a Lab or something that’s friendly and well-trained to be able to detect the illegal controlled substances that we have.”
Hebb said he believes a K-9 unit will prevent students from bringing drugs into the high school.
“I love West Virginia, but you can’t escape the fact that in our nation, we’re among the top in substance abuse and drug abuse,” Hebb said. “That’s sad, but it’s the reality. Our youth coming up, they’re faced with decisions of whether they should try a drug or not and we need to educate them which we are doing, but we also need to keep drugs out of our schools.
“Everyone says visibility is a deterrent, and that’s true, it is,” Hebb added. “If I have a K-9 with me, I don’t want a bite dog, I don’t want a search-and-rescue dog. Marshall Powers has that and they do a great job.”
Hebb said the sheriff’s department could employ the K-9 anywhere throughout the county, making the purchase beneficial to the school system and county residents alike. He also noted that the Upshur County Board of Education was supportive of the idea and subsequently presented commissioners with a collection of letters of support, including one from county schools superintendent Roy Wager.
Commission president Terry Cutright asked Hebb how much the K-9 would cost, and Hebb estimated $12,000, saying the BOE had committed to pay half the cost if the commission would pay the other 50 percent.
“Don’t quote me on this because we’re still pricing various facilities, but you’re probably looking at $6,000,” Hebb said.
Cutright said the idea was a stellar one, but brought up concerns he said had been voiced by board members.
“I was talking with board members the other day, and they were concerned about if you were to leave, would the dog go with you?” Cutright said. “Is it trained to only the handler, or could it be trained to another officer?”
Hebb said he wasn’t planning on leaving, but if he did, the dog would be committed to Upshur County and could be trained to obey the commands of another officer.
Commissioner Sam Nolte praised Hebb’s work at the high school.
“I think it’s a great investment,” he said. “You’re doing a great job. I’ve heard nothing but good things – the kids like and respect you.”
County administrator Carrie Wallace said commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting, was likewise in support of the idea.
Nolte made a motion to approve paying for 50 percent of the K-9 unit, which was seconded by Cutright prior to passing unanimously.
Hebb said, “I think this is going to be nothing but beneficial for the entire county. The first letter in PRO is prevention, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do; I’m trying to be proactive, not reactive.”
In other news, the commission also:
p Approved and signed a resolution allowing Cutright to enter into a loan agreement and to sign any and all loan documents with Citizens Bank of W.Va. to receive and administer loan funds up to the amount of $1,137,020 for the refinancing of the county E911 Communication Center
p Approved and signed the American Fidelity Assurance Company Adoption agreement for amended and restated Section 125 Flexible Benefit Plan
p Awarded the contract of sale for the James W. Curry Park timber sale to the highest bidder, Northwest Hardwoods, in the amount of $75,096.75
p Approved and signed U.S. EPA FY 2017 Brownfields Grants Cooperative Agreement documents
p Denied a request from Mountain CAP CDC director April Spears requesting the commission to consider offering one-day pass booklets at a discounted rate of $15 to Mountain CAP CDC attendees
p Accepted the resignation of E911 Comm Center telecommunicator Sierra Norman, effective May 28, 2017