Wood County Sheriff asks for more deputies in next year’s budget

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - March is budget month in West Virginia, and, even in a pandemic, this year is no exception.

This is when local governments hear spending needs from their department heads, for the budget year that begins the following July.

Monday, for perhaps the first time ever, the Wood County Commission heard from all of its department heads and county elected officials in one morning.

Sheriff Steve Stephens says there’s been increased calls involving breaking and entering and theft-particularly mail theft, lately-in the past 12 months.

But to underscore his need for more deputies, he played the 911 call from Deputy Jason Allen, asking for backup as shots were fired during an deputy-involved shooting, in which an individual was shot and killed.

“You don’t think something’s going to happen to you until it hits home,” Sheriff Stephens said, with some emotion, in addressing the commission after playing the audio recording of the call. “So, when you ask why I need three officers, I actually need ten. I’m asking for three.”

Shawn Bailey, 25-year-old brother of Paul Bailey, who died in the October 17, 2020 incident, was charged with malicious assault of a law-enforcement officer. A grand jury in January declined to bring criminal charges against Deputy Allen.

And while the emphasis has been on COVID-19 in the past year, the problem with drug abuse and overdoses hasn’t gone away.

Prosecutor Pat Lefebure would like to have an investigator, possibly a retired law enforcement officer, to handle cases coming into his office.

“When you have more drugs, you have more theft,” Lefebure told the commission Monday. “And the big increases with all the drugs have been on the abuse and neglect. We’ve had a lot more of (those cases) than we’ve had in the past.”

And COVID has taken its toll on other officers. 911 Center Director Rick Woodyard said the center has had to use part-time workers to fill in for full-time dispatchers due to illness.

“We’ve got part-time people who have worked so much we’ve had to take retirement out for them, because they filled in a lot of hours, over and beyond what we were allowed, with part-time people.”

It’s not known how much of the stimuius money just allocated to local governments can be used to fund budget requests. Completed budgets need to be submitted to the state of West Virginia by the end of March.

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