City Receives City Police Update from Chief J.E. Kopec

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By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

Prior to the last meeting of the Parsons City Council in 2019, members and their families were invited to a Christmas Dinner at the Parsons Volunteer Fire Hall. At the conclusion of a delicious meal and friendly chatter, the council with the exception of David Greenlief got down to business for the final time of the year.
Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy called the meeting to order with the reciting f The Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer to close out the year with hopes of a prosperous 2020. There were no public comments which lead to the approval of the minutes from November 19 by Councilman Tim Auvil and a second by Councilman Kenneth Morrison. Financial items followed with Finance Director Danielle Sponaugle presenting an invoice list in the amount of $66,696.63, noting the amount was higher than usual due to it being for an entire month. Auvil made a motion to approve the invoice list with a second by Councilwoman Melissa Jones.
City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers presented Revenue Control Reports for the both the general fund and coal severance tax. Myers then presented the council an updated project list and their approved allocation funds from the Harman Memorial Fund. Myers noted some line items needed to be drawn down, some can be re-allocated, and others have been used. Auvil made a motion to acknowledge the council has been made aware of these project lists updates with Jones making a second.
Myers continued by presenting a budget revision to the council. Apparently, an owner of properties responsible for paying hotel and motel tax had been submitting their payments to the county which should have gone to the city due to the location of the properties being within city limits. “Outside of the city limits goes to the county, inside the city limits comes to us (the city),” explained Myers. This resulted in an increase of that line item for the general budget. He continued to inform the board that this money actually doesn’t stay within the city, but half goes to Parks and Recreation and the other half to the CVB. The other line items requiring an increase in budget were City Hall, public grounds, the Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Visitors Bureau, Fair Associations and Festivals, and the general government. The total amount to be increased came to $60,200. Auvil made a motion to approve the revisions with a second by Jones.
City Police Chief J.E. Kopec has been busy his first month on duty at his new post. “I thank you guys all for hiring me and having me,” he began. “I’ve tried to, within the last month or so I’ve been here, to do everything I said I was going to do and I think we’re jogging along on that.” Chief J.E. Kopec has been taking time to evaluate areas of need and prioritize those to address concerns and needs in a timely fashion. He presented a monthly activity report for November, which listed the following actions: participated in two misdemeanor cases, made four misdemeanor arrests, one arrest by misdemeanor citation, assisted with one traffic accident, administered eight speeding tickets and two additional moving violations, issued another citation for no insurance, one traffic warning, made three public appearances within the school systems, and made five code enforcement public contacts.
The Chief also updated the council that the individual responsible for the bathroom fire at Mill Race Park was charged with second degree arson, a felony, is awaiting sentencing. Documents are in place that can prevent the individual prohibiting them from being on the property of the parks; however, this may not be necessary pending his sentencing. Chief J.E. Kopec also noted the individual responsible for stealing water from the City of Parsons confessed and was cited for theft of services. Funds owed will be rectified.
Chief J.E. Kopec also briefed the members on housekeeping issues that are being addressed regarding reporting systems, evidence storage, proper software usage, form upgrades, and other areas he feels needs attention. He also expressed a desire to provide a small token of appreciation for the three volunteer task force individuals, which the council agreed to. In closing of the Police Department report, Chief J.E. Kopec recommended building barricades similar to those of the City of Elkins that are able to be broken down that would serve multiple uses for the city, such as parades, city workers, carnivals, road closures, etc. It was a well received recommendation and the council agreed to start with 10 and will be checking with the TCHS Carpentry Class for construction.
Moving forward, Myers stated the ADA compliant elevator phone has been installed and the elevator passed inspection. He also attended a meeting regarding insurance for the next calendar year, noting no increases or changes will be made through PEIA. A recap of the PRO house tours were discussed with approximately 90 individuals travelling through the depot during the event. PRO is also beginning to work on the downstairs of the McDonald property as well as preparing to add insulation in the apartment attics. Myers, John “Red” Lipscomb, and Marshall Parsons recently attended a safety meeting which lead Myers to the conclusion that another Safety Committee needs to be added to the City of Parsons.
The trees have all been removed except those at the parks by Dave’s Tree Service and the security cameras at Mill Race Park are currently being programmed. In January, a meeting with the company wising to utilize city property to install a fiber-optic transmission line to negotiate terms. Myers has also received a letter from the state auditor’s office informing Parsons that, if any state grants are received in excess of $50,000, a single audit will need to be conducted which amounts to approximately $10,000 to $12,000. He made the council aware that the funds needed for these audits cannot be secured through the grant funds. Fortunately, most of the larger grants received for Parsons are federal and not state, which would not require this single audit. The letter has been sent to the Director of the Municipal League for further clarification on the matter.
A new bill is being introduced in the upcoming session that will require any arresting agency, be it county, city, DNR, etc., will be required for paying the jail bills moving forward. Currently, it is the responsibility of the county which Myers suggested to prevent this cost, for the city police to call out a county or state law enforcement officer to do the arrest. Chief J.E. Kopec brought up it’s unfair to the county because even when they are not the arresting agency, in instances where the state police or DNR are the ones making the arrest, the county is still responsible for the jail bill. He brought to their attention that the daily fee per person in jail is $67.50 and several individuals who are incarcerated are sitting on the jail bills for nearly two years before going to trial and sentenced before moving off the county jail bill. Myers said the Municipal League will be fighting this bill and recommended calling our local representatives and express disapproval for the proposed bill.
To conclude the employee reports, Myers informed the council that four to five speed bumps have been installed at Mill Race Park. They have not been painted as of yet, but they are serving as a test to see if they hold up during snow plowing. If they do, more may be distributed throughout the city where speeding is a concern. Sign are in the process of being installed to make drivers aware of the speed bumps.
Unfinished business followed beginning with matters pertaining to the Parsons Sewer Extension Project. The goal is to start bidding for the project after the New Year. As for the Parsons Industrial Park Project, the surveyor has presented a preliminary survey showing the property in the amount of 54.03 acres. A land use study is the next step in the process, therefore Auvil made a motion to seek consultants for this step followed with a second by Recorder and Councilman Bruce Kolsun. A Memorandum of Understanding between Tucker County Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the City of Parsons to construct a canopy style structure to protect the OEM trailers from the weather and elements. Attorney Pat Nichols reviewed the memorandum and adjusted the term to two years with an automatic renewal. The agreement can be terminated at any time with a 30 day notice. All were in agreement and motion carried.
The former P & C Furniture Store building at 199 Main Street has been a large concern for the Parsons City Council for quite some time. It was intended to be properly removed last spring, however the owner at the time unexpectedly passed away, leaving the property to her heirs. Attorney Nichols along with Myers and Judy has been in contact with the new owners of the building trying to safely remove the building. The estate was settled on December 13 where the owner agreed to give the property to the city as well as two pieces of property in the Porterwood area for the City to sell, along with $10,000 to go towards the demolition of the structure. The City will also be working with the Woodlands Development Group to secure grants to move forward with the project.
The Tucker County Commission has asked the City to partner with them to install lights at the downtown parking lot. The Commission has offered $3,000 towards the project, along with $500 from Jon Bush’s business who also benefits from the lot. Parsons is providing some materials they already have and will be providing the remaining funds to install three to four lights. Kolsun made the motion to partner with the Commission on this project with a second by Auvil.
The Ambassador Company has asked Parsons to serve as the sponsor of “My Favorite Book” and “The Way to Go” books that will be made available for the first and fourth grade students at TVEMS for two years. These books teach students about law enforcement officers, manners, respecting the American Flag, where our food comes from, bullying, and many more valuable topics. The total cost to be the sponsor of these books for two years is $700 and each student will receive a book free. The entire council agreed the cause is worth supporting with a unanimous vote to serve as the book sponsor.
Under the good of the order, Councilwoman Amy Wagner expressed concern over a slick area behind the First United Methodist Church and the possibility of making one of the alleys a one way street. Brief discussion commenced on the threats to students waiting for the buses and meeting oncoming traffic this area possesses with Mayor Judy turning the issue over to the street committee for further investigation.
A sincere thank you letter was received from Michael Queen in reference to the Harvard University students visiting with Parsons Officials. Approximately a dozen students were travelling the Appalachian region and visiting with locals to ask questions and learn of the lifestyle. This concluded the final meeting of the Parsons City Council for 2019. The members will convene again on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at 6 p.m. at the Charles W. “Bill” Rosenau Municipal Building.