The town of Rainelle has entered into a contract with the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department so the small community can have a steady police presence.
During the Jan. 8 meeting of the Rainelle Town Council, acting Mayor Bill Bell announced that the contract became official on Jan. 8.
“This is in no way considered to be a permanent solution, but a temporary one until a police chief is appointed, followed by officers who have been recruited for the department,” Bell said.
Currently, the town does not employ any police personnel, which has been a major source of concern for residents. While members of the sheriff’s department and the West Virginia State Police have been providing patrols for the town, this contract will ensure that members of the sheriff’s department will be available when needed.
Bell explained that the town’s ordinance does not require that the town have its own police force and that funding for these contract services may be paid out of municipal fees.
“Municipal fees are determined by buildings and structures within the town and not the population, which would include every man, woman and child,” Bell said.
All contract services and the associated fund distribution was voted on by the town council, Bell continued. During the voting process, the council had to take into consideration a lot of factors including how much it would cost for the town to employ an officer, provide health insurance, workers compensation, vehicle insurance and upkeep, uniforms, sick pay and vacation pay, among others.
“It is probably a little less expensive to have members of the sheriff’s department patrol the town, but every hour is accounted for by the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department,” Bell said. Last year, the town paid $212,485 in police department fees to those employed by the town of Rainelle.
“To be quite honest with you, I don’t know what we got out of it,” Bell stated.
Councilmember Martha Livesay noted that she has seen an increased sheriff’s department presence in the town.
“I really appreciate the sheriff’s department helping us out,” Livesay said.
“A city is not gauged by its length and its width, but by its broadness and its vision and its height and its dream,” Bell said, reciting a favorite quote. “So, our vision is to have a police department back. That is our vision, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
To obtain financials regarding the contract between the town of Rainelle and the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request must be submitted at town hall.
In other business, the town heard updates from David Altizer, project management director with Thrasher Engineering, regarding designs for a storm sewer and drainage channel for the town and surrounding area.
Altizer stated that the work will be completed in two phases including in-town work for the storm sewer system and design and flood channel work for the Meadow River and Sewell Creek drainage areas.
“So far, great progress is being made,” Altizer said. The deadline for project deliverables is due to FEMA by the middle of April 2021.
“We are almost there,” Altizer said. “We’ve got 70 percent of the design on the pipes in town done and 85 percent of modeling for the flood and rainwater channels done.”
A cost analysis to determine the benefits to the town must be completed, Altizer said. If the town can demonstrate the benefits of the project, FEMA may increase funding. Drawings for the project, including street drain placement, will be provided to town council members soon for review.
Cassandra Lawson, senior project development specialist for Region IV Planning and Community Development, was also in attendance and explained the next steps the council needs to complete for the water storage facility upgrade through a Community Development Block Grant.
She told council members they should continue work to open a bank account to control fund distribution for the water storage facility and they should complete a waiver called a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to submit to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
The waiver, Lawson explained, will help the commission determine if the project is necessary to increase public health. Since this will be a grant-funded project, it is unlikely that the town will need to increase rates, Lawson noted.
Bell also provided council with an update on the FEMA bridge loan that was taken out following the 2016 floods, since some information was lacking at the last meeting.
Bell explained that the exact amount of the loan was $316,979. The town borrowed $50,000 out of that in 2016. The maturity date on the loan is November 28, 2021. Interest on the loan amounts to almost $3,000.
The government-based lender is going to complete a disaster cost revenue loss based on the last four years, Bell said. The lender currently has town audits for the last several years and the town must show a loss in the last three years for all or part of the loan to be forgiven. The interest rate is 1.75%.
“It looks promising that some of it will be forgiven,” Bell said.
In the event the town must pay all of the loan, Bell said he was proud that the administration had been able to make room in the town budget