The hear public input portion of the Marlinton Town Council meeting Monday evening turned into a heated discussion about law enforcement and its role within town limits.
Resident and business owner Kristy Lanier asked council what the town is doing about the lack of law enforcement in the town. Lanier said she has made several complaints to law enforcement and said that she is told by the officers that they can’t do anything unless they catch people in the act of committing a crime.
Lanier said the officers told her that they were not going to waste their time arresting someone and taking them to Tygarts Valley Regional Jail in Randolph County when they will be released the next day.
Lanier said there is a drug issue in town and she has video on her cellphone to prove that there is illegal activity going on in Marlinton, and she is willing to share the data with police if it will help.
Mayor Sam Felton said that the town police officer, Kendall Ober, is currently at the academy getting certified and will be back to work in early May.
Until then, Felton said the best course of action is to call 911 and make a complaint.
“We are somewhat at a loss ourselves because we’re complaining,” Felton said. “[Code enforcement officer Scott Gibb] and I have been dealing with some of these issues since the new [West Virginia State Police] sergeant arrived and, I confess, we had hoped for more with the new person in charge. I hope from his reports, maybe there soon will be.
“We haven’t seen it yet either, so I hear what you’re saying.”
Councilmember Chris Curry suggested asking law enforcement officers to come to a council meeting to discuss the issue further and have a conversation about what can be done in town.
“Can we not bring these guys in and have them explain?” Curry asked. “If this is really what they’re saying, I’d like to hear it from them. If this is the case, they kind of owe us an explanation, too.”
Adding to what Curry said, councilmember Gail Hyer suggested putting the issue on the agenda for the May and June meetings and invite law enforcement officers and a consumer representative from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office.
Hyer also suggested looking into a writ of mandamus.
According to the Cornell Law School website, a writ of mandamus is “an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.”
A town resident asked if having a neighborhood watch would help with the issues in town and councilmember Joe Smith explained that there used to be a neighborhood watch that worked with the sheriff’s department.
“We had a neighborhood watch for two years,” he said. “The sheriff at the time gave us walkie-talkies so we could talk back and forth. Every time we reported something, the answer we got as a designated neighborhood watch through the sheriff’s department was, ‘if we don’t see it, we can’t do anything about it.’ So it just folded.”
Council agreed that the best course of action is to invite law enforcement to attend a round table discussion before the next council meeting in May.
In other action, council:
• heard from town resident Dave Bethany, who requested a temporary variance to the chicken ordinance due to a misunderstanding he had with the town. Bethany said he contacted the town office in December 2022 and asked if he could have chickens at his home. He was asked if he would have a rooster; when he said no, he said he was told he could have chickens.
He spent money and more than six weeks of his time putting together a coop for his chickens, and two days after he got his three chickens, code enforcement officer Scott Gibb came to his house and told him he was not in compliance with the town ordinance.
Council said it could not vote on a variance at this meeting because it was not on the agenda as a variance request. Bethany was told he could be on the May agenda.
• approved the Marlinton Utility Adjustment Policy.
• approved the town’s Disturbing the Peace Ordinance.
• approved poll worker appointments.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, excluding holidays, at 7 p.m. in the municipal building auditorium. The public is welcome to attend in person or online through a Zoom link.