Community service OK again in New Cumberland

NEW CUMBERLAND – City Council is suspending the sentence it gave the city’s community service program in July.

The program has been under review since the resignation in June of Community Service Director George Hines, who said he could no longer continue in the position because of lax enforcement of the rules.

Hines, who had been community service director for 11 years and who often used volunteer labor for city beautification projects, resigned because offenders were not showing up for work or suffering any consequences for not fulfilling their community service hours.

The program allows people who are convicted in New Cumberland Municipal Court to do community service for the city in lieu of jail time. City Council accepted Hines’ resignation in July, with the provision that the program be reviewed and improved.

Council earlier this week voted unanimously to restore Hines to the community service director position. Mayor Linda McNeil said she recommended Hines’ reappointment after “ironing out some issues” with Hines, Municipal Court Judge John Ashcraft and City Solicitor Kevin Pearl.

“Volunteers will be held more accountable, and there’s a lot more obligation on their part,” McNeil said.

“I don’t mind staying on and trying to make a difference for the city,” Hines said.

Under the new system, Hines said he will have more authority to ensure that offenders meet their obligations to the city. He can obtain a subpoena to compel someone to perform his or her community service hours. In the cases of offenders who do not appear, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest.

“There’s a lot more checks and balances than there were. There’s more I can do now,” Hines said.

All current offenders who still owe community service soon will be sent a letter and given a court date in which they can schedule their remaining hours, Hines said.

In other business, council:

– Gave a first reading to an ordinance that will designate all city sports fields and parks as drug-free zones.

– Agreed to reimburse Police Lt. Jeremy Krzys for the cost of boarding Copa, the city’s police dog.

– Agreed to send Hines to a brownfields seminar later this month and the West Virginia Make it Shine conference in October.

– Agreed to keep a yearly inventory of all city-owned equipment for auditing purposes.

– Accepted an $8,000 state grant for making improvements and repairs to the Municipal Building.