MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Morgantown city councilors received a report on the state of policing and an update on U.S. bailout allocations during Tuesday’s committee of the whole.
Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell reports the department has an authorized strength of 76 officers and currently has 55 sworn officers and four more awaiting training at the West Virginia State Police Academy.
The department operates in three shifts with ten officers each to cover the 24-hour day. Each shift has ten officers, at least two supervisors, and balance patrol areas and serve as backup when needed.
So far this year, the team of officers has responded to 20,448 calls for service with an average response time of 3.6 to 4.6 minutes since Jan. 1, 2022. The average FBI standard for time response time is 10 minutes, according to Powell.
“I firmly believe that our agents always provide top quality service when doing their job,” Powell said. “I still believe they have a strong belief in the things they do.”
In addition to a new municipal website, the city is continuing an outreach effort that began in 2021 with potential candidates. Powell said they are always looking for places to source candidates and ways to get them through the hiring process.
“We tweaked our test to make it a little more user-friendly and a little more up-to-date,” Powell said. “And we added tips for taking the test that didn’t exist before I became chief.”
Recruitment and retention has been a difficult task for all law enforcement agencies, regardless of location. Powell mentions some incentives that are still in development and said department morale is not as low as some media reports.
In fact, we just brought back an officer who left two months ago, so we’re in the process of bringing him back into the department,” Powell said. “I guess that’s a positive sign of things to come.”
Approximately $5.62 million is being allocated to five outlets that were part of a public input study last year and are contributing to facility upgrades, infrastructure improvements and economic grants in Morgantown . The majority of the funds (approximately $2.35 million) go to small businesses and neighborhood investments, including $500,000 in small business relief grants and neighborhood safety measures in downtown and docks.
“We purchased 43 high-tech cameras for the downtown and waterfront neighborhoods at a cost of $173,000,” Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws said. “It will improve our public safety and give us a lot more responsibility in the downtown core,” he said.
Investments in health infrastructure, resources and technology receive funding as part of the first installment of ARPA funds. About $1.75 million is spent on improving water supply and sewage infrastructure and about $1.15 million on physical and mental health resources. The largest expense, based on updates presented by the city on Tuesday, is directed to Health Right to pay for the $800,000 move from downtown to Hazel’s House of Hope. The city has also allocated funds to support a public housing program with the help of Mountain State Justice.
“We were able to develop a partnership with Mountain State Justice regarding legal immigration services for low-income residents, and we are currently looking at other ways to grow,” Deputy City Manager Emily Mozzarella said.
Approximately $375,000 is spent on technology upgrades for city staff.
The next Morgantown City Council meeting will be on September 6.