County sticks to $25k security budget

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved an advertisement for two part-time courtroom security guards — but with the stipulation that the county not spend more than the allocated $25,000 for their employment.

At the recommendation of magistrate Mike Coffman and other members of the judiciary, the commission voted to approve the hiring of two part-time courtroom security guards/bailiffs to man the entrance of the Upshur County Magistrate Courtroom at its Thursday, April 26 meeting.

At the time, county administrator Carrie Wallace observed the county had budgeted $25,000 for courtroom security for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, but that employing two part-time security guards would cost the county slightly over $25,000 ­— approximately $1,000 more.

At Thursday’s meeting, the commission was reviewing correspondence from Sheriff David Coffman, requesting the approval of an advertisement for two positions.

Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion to approve the advertisements; however, commissioner Troy “Buddy” Brady said he would not second the motion unless the county pledged not to spend more than the allocated $25,000 on the bailiffs.

“I’ll second that as long as it doesn’t supersede the $25,000,” Brady said.

Commission president Sam Nolte said the commission had discussed the possibility that it might take about $1,000 more to fully fund the positions.

Wallace said with the compensation set at the rate of $11.50 per hour, the cost of paying the guards would amount to $25,749.88.

“It’s going to go a little bit over the $25,000, and then you’re going to have uniforms to purchase,” Wallace said. “You would have to do a budget revision to cover what’s left over. You don’t have to do that now.”

Nolte said he’d prefer to wait and see, since the courthouse is closed for a handful of holidays — i.e. days the bailiffs would not be working.

“I’d rather wait, Buddy, because we are closed several days out of the year, so why don’t we wait and see because those days that are closed might offset [the extra expense]?” Nolte said.

Brady reiterated that he did not want to exceed the allocated $25,000.

“I just do not want it to go over $25,000 because that’s what we appropriated to use for it, and I’ve got a problem with it superseding $25,000 we set aside,” Brady said. “If you stay within the $25,000 you have a second. If you’re going to go above that by $1,000 then I’m nay on that.”

Nolte replied, “I don’t think there’s a guarantee that we’re not going to go over $25,000, especially the first year.”

Brady said if the commission exceeds its budget in a particular area, that’s setting a poor example for other county departments and offices.

“I just don’t think we should go over what we budgeted,” he said. “I know we do in some emergency situations, and sometimes we have emergencies, but if we budget, we need to stay within the budget because that’s what we want every office to do in this courthouse, you know what I mean?”

Nolte answered, “But last meeting when we discussed this, it had been brought up that it might run over a little bit.”

Brady said Coffman had said he would chip in from the sheriff’s office budget to purchase certain items, such as weapons.

Wallace said the county had designated 14 holidays and four half-days, and county clerk Carol Smith added that as long as the guards don’t make up those hours lost during holidays, the commission should be able to remain within the budget. 

“As long as the sheriff understands that if there’s a holiday, they’re not to make [those hours] up doing something else,” Smith said. “In the minds of somebody who works part time, they think, ‘Well, we’re closed this day, so I can go ahead and work an extra day here.’ The answer to that to you all should be no. If the courthouse is closed and that’s your week to work, then you only have whatever number of hours in that week.”

Brady said he originally believed it wasn’t necessary to hire courtroom security guards.

“We went out of our way because people said we had a problem, so we’re trying to address that and see if that makes it better, but with that being said, we need to stay within the budget because if you don’t, then there’s no need to set a budget,” Brady said. “There’s no reason we can’t stay within that $25,000.”

Wallace asked if Brady expected the cost of purchasing uniforms to be included in the $25,000.

Brady replied, “The sheriff said he was going to buy guns and stuff. The uniforms, we can look at and see. I don’t like to set a budget and say, ‘OK, we’ve only got X amount of dollars, but don’t worry about it, if you want to go over it, it’s fine.’ We set the budget at $25,000 to address a problem that I didn’t see, but there could be a problem. With that being said, I want to stay within the budget because that’s why we set it.”

Brady ultimately seconded the motion, which carried unanimously.

In other commission news, the commission tabled a request from Maria Bray, co-chair of the Buckhannon Dog Park Committee, asking for permission to use the Buckhannon-Upshur Recreational Park Pool for the last four hours of the season for a “Drool in the Pool” fundraising event.

Should the event ultimately be approved, dogs and their humans would be able to use the pool and listen to music while celebrating the end of the “dog days” of summer. Donations collected would be used to establish a fully developed site at the dog park that would include an agility course, trails and off-street parking.

Wallace said Brooke Scott, a member of the dog park committee, planned to confer with other communities who have held similar “Drool in the Pool” events for dogs.

“She knows of a couple other places that have held this event the last hour of the pool season, and she’s going to reach out to them just to see what issues they’ve had and if they have any ideas for how to prevent the hair from going into the filters, because that’s the main concern of the maintenance department and of you all,” Wallace said. “She’s going to get back to us on her findings, if you’d like to table the decision.”

Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion to table the decision until the commission receives further information, which was seconded by Brady prior to passing unanimously.

The regularly scheduled commission meeting on Thursday, May 31 has been canceled.

Before adjourning, the commission also:

-Approved an agreement with Frontier Communications for service and equipment that will cost $525 per month for 100 megabits per second of service.

-Approved seasonal employment for Upshur County Youth Camp staff, effective May 13.

-Approved seasonal employment for B-U Recreational Facility staff, effective May 13.


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