Drug dropoffs coming to county

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont College’s welding program is partnering with the Belmont County Drug Task Force to provide a new tool in the fight to keep drugs off the street and out of reach.

This coming year the task force plans to install drop off boxes for drugs throughout the county. About 10 drop-off boxes will be placed at the sheriff’s office and at police departments in Martins Ferry, Barnesville, Bellaire, Bridgeport, Powhatan, St. Clairsville, Shadyside and Bethesda.

Drug Task Force Commander John McFarland said the boxes are an extension of prior successful drug take-back days, which had focused on prescription medicine. People will be able to deposit any kind of legal or illegal drug or prescription medication.

“Our main goal is to get this stuff off the street,” said McFarland, adding that the task force also hopes to reduce related crimes such as breaking and entering to obtain drugs.

Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said the boxes would serve as a convenient means of disposing unused prescription medicine that might otherwise be stolen and sold on the street.

“There are very few places you can properly dispose of unused or unneeded medication. Giving people the opportunity to do so helps decreased the circumstances where those types of medication end up in the wrong hands,” he said. “Chief McFarland, the task force and Belmont College should be applauded for taking a proactive approach to combat this problem.”

Bridgeport Chief A.H. Klotz said his department receives frequent calls inquiring how to dispose of unwanted medication.

Bellaire Chief Michael Kovalyk said he hopes the boxes will serve as a deterrent to drug-related crimes. He added that such innovations sends a message that law enforcement is doing all it can despite budget and manpower issues.

Starting spring semester on Jan. 17, second year students at the welding lab will design and fabricate the boxes as part of their capstone project.

Dirk Decoy, director of Industrial Trades and Contract Training, said a total of 20 students will work on the boxes, with two per box. They will design the boxes, produce a prototype, then begin production.

“We’re going to go cradle to grave,” he said.

The drop boxes will be 42 inches high, 22 wide and 18 deep with a hinge door on top. They will be made of steel and bolted to the floor. They will feature full-length piano hinges to eliminate prying points. They will also include separate openings for needles.

The contents of the boxes will be disposed of often.

Decoy noted the particular challenges to such a project, including making the boxes tamper proof. He and task force members will mentor them during the project.

“This is a good community involvement project,” he said.

Decoy added that the work will cover two credit hours and well as educational standards in the class.

He noted the confidence that the department is placing in his students’ abilities and added that a community project of this importance will also make an impressive addition on their resumes.

“Belmont College is 100 percent in support of this,” he said.

“The help from the college and Mr. Decoy is absolutely great,” said McFarland. “We look forward to working with him to get the boxes complete.”

“It’s a learning experience,” said Evan Marling, one of the students. “It will help out in the future.”

The boxes will include task force information and possibly thanks to the sponsors. McFarland said the boxes will cost roughly $500 each. The task force is looking into different funding sources and fundraisers. Sponsors are welcome to donate to the project.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com