KEYSER - Mineral County citizens may have a choice to vote for or against a law enforcement levy in the general election on Nov. 6.

NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the Mineral County Commission is actually talking about placing a levy for law enforcement on the November ballot. They have not yet made a decision.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - Mineral County citizens may have a choice to vote for or against a law enforcement levy in the general election on Nov. 6.
The levy was an agenda item for the Mineral County commissioners during their regular meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Commission president Jerry Whisner said that there is a “shortage of law enforcement staff,” and more deputies are needed “to combat the drug problem” in the county.
He said the number of officers for each shift amounts to two, naming the distance of coverage for the two from the northern end to the southern end of the county as 50 miles.
Whisner said the problem with so much distance involved is when a domestic call must be answered by the county deputies, who must travel from one end of the county to another to get to the scene.
He said that the passage of the levy could fund four to six new officers for the county.
Sheriff Jeremy Taylor said that in the county, “There is one officer for 2,600 citizens,” naming the national average as one officer for every 1,000 citizens.
Whisner said one of his goals when elected as a county commissioner was to “have an investigator” among the law enforcement staff, while commissioner Richard Lechliter said an investigation currently can’t be completed because there is no staff for this duty.
Lechliter wanted to make clear to the county citizens concerning the levy, “This is not to give raises, it is to add more staff” for law enforcement.
Taylor spoke to the commissioners of a goal he too had, and he explained that he would like to “split the county in half,” and officers would be designated to the northern end and additional officers would be assigned to the southern end of the county.
“Now they are running back and forth,” he said, suggesting the two areas would be named patrol districts, with two officers at each end of the county, and a fifth officer would float between the two sections of the county and “be a back-up if needed.”
Taylor said that the added revenue from a law enforcement levy, if passed, could make possible to have one member of the deputy staff be a member of the drug task force, and he mentioned that recent activity from the drug task force is responsible for arrests “now in federal hands.”
He said on each shift a starting fee to get an officer on the road would be around $79,000 and up to $100,000, which includes salary, a vehicle, gas, tires, equipment, plus more.
Giving an estimate of the funding needed to have five deputies for each shift, Taylor gave the amount of about $949,000 to $1,819,000, and, “We will see a difference” with the added staff.
Lauren Ellifritz, county clerk, said a special meeting would be needed about the law enforcement levy to deal with the creation of the wording on the ballot.
She added the levy will be on a separate ballot, and the last day to have the information ready for a printed ballot is Aug. 9 - if the commission decides to go that route.