Chester searches for new officers

CHESTER – It’s back to the drawing board for the Chester Police Department.

City Council learned on Monday the city’s latest police officer candidate, Markas Dunlevy, has resigned. Council accepted the resignation at Monday’s regular meeting.

“He resigned the day before he was scheduled to start the police academy,” Police Chief Ken Thorn said, noting the resignation letter made reference to other career opportunities Dunlevy wanted to pursue.

Dunlevy was set to go to the West Virginia State Police Academy in Charleston on March 24.

The resignation puts the department at three below its recommended force level of six officers, Thorn said. Officer Becky Haught currently is on military leave. Lt. James Bryan is leaving office this week, even though he is officially retiring in August, Thorn said.

Current officers are Garrett Barnhart, hired last year, and Dante DiJirolanio and Pete Bowen.

Thorn said four officers have expressed an interest in the opening – two sheriff’s deputies from other counties, a state trooper and a Weirton officer. None of them would have to attend the police academy, and the city would waive its physical agility test requirement, Thorn said.

Any applicant will first have to take the civil service test. Thorn said the city must administer the test soon to build up its list of eligible candidates. The city’s current list has two candidates, but, by law, an active list must contain at least three names.

Applicants who score 70 or higher are put on the list in descending order, and the list is used for the hiring of new police officers. When there is a vacancy, the Chester Civil Service Board submits the top three names to the mayor and police chief for interviews. Applicants also must pass a background check.

Also Monday, three owners of golf carts, including two former City Council members, reiterated their concerns about the city’s new golf cart law, which prohibits the driving of golf carts on city streets. City Council passed the law in November over the objections and protests of golf cart users.

“I’d like council to take another look at this and reconsider this,” said Chester resident and former Councilman Joe Geisse. “I feel you’ve overstepped your bounds here.”

Residents Dana Piccarelli and Toni Snyder said they saw another resident driving his golf cart “all day Sunday” with children passengers who were not wearing seat belts.

“He can’t be on his golf cart,” Mayor Ken Morris said. “Some people just defy the law.”

Thorn said a City Police officer did not see the man riding on a city street but did speak to him, threatening him with a citation and confiscation of the vehicle. The new city law provides for fines of up to $100 for the first offense and not less than $250 for subsequent offenses.

Thorn said he would have Chester Municipal Court issue a summons for the man’s arrest if the three golf cart owners would file a formal complaint. The residents said they would be willing.

As for reconsidering the ordinance, Councilman John Woodruff said the city is on solid legal ground. He cited a 2012 decision by the West Virginia Human Rights Commission affirming the conviction of a Chesapeake, W.Va., man for riding a golf cart on a city street.

In other business, council:

Amended a city ordinance prohibiting the accumulation of junk on private property by increasing the penalties for violating the law.

Learned that Chester’s participation in the “WV Make It Shine Statewide Cleanup” starts at 9 a.m. April 13 at Chester City Park. Volunteers are needed, Councilman Mike Dotson said.