Bellaire police chief seeking fee equity

BELLAIRE The Bellaire Police Department averages 30-35 arrests per month of alleged criminals or offenders on outstanding warrants.

Each arrest requires, at minimum, 75 minutes to complete once the offender is placed in the back of the cruiser 25 minutes drive time apiece to and from the Belmont County Jail in St. Clairsville and 25 minutes for booking.

The Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, receives a $30 processing fee for offender booked on outstanding warrants. The arresting agency, the one that actually picked up and transported the offender? None.

Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk believes this is something that needs remedied and he sought village council’s support Thursday during its first meeting of 2013.

“It’s costing us money. Not only us, but the other departments and agencies within the county,” Kovalyk explained. “We are not getting compensated for these arrests and we’re taking time out and away from protecting our citizens, using our gas, placing wear and tear on our vehicles.”

Kovalyk suggested that a portion of the processing fee the BCSO receives per each arrest be set aside for the arresting agency responsible for bringing in the offender.

Either that or the overall processing fee be raised slightly to account for a fee for the arresting agency.

“It used to be were we’d pick up somebody and the sheriff’s office would send someone down to pick them up,” Kovalyk said. “That fell by the wayside. We are losing a lot of revenue, all departments county wide are. And when money is an issue here I believe that’s something that needs looked into and taken to the commissioners.”

Kovalyk was alluding to the temporary 2013 budget passed by council during the last meeting of 2012. That budget, which features a general fund carryover balance of only $24,000, is projected at a near $200,000 general fund deficit by the end of 2013 with a best-case scenario of $65,000 deficit, depending on tax collections.

And while what amounts to probably less than $500 a month in fee payments may not seem like much up front, that also requires less wasted gas and manpower going to and from St. Clairsville. And as Kovalyk said, he’s trying to help where he can.

The chief also gave a brief update on the robbery at Rich’s Oil gas station early Wednesday morning. Police are still searching for the subject, who robbed the clerk at knife-point before making off with what is reported to be less then $200.

Bellaire PD has been following a few leads but has yet to make any arrests. Kovalyk asked anyone with any information to come forward and contact his department, no matter how small the information may appear.

Councilman Jim Piatt was again voted as President Pro Tempore for council. His appointment was passed with a 2-1 margin as Councilman Josh Meyer was excused from Thursday’s meeting while Piatt and Councilman Jim Williams, who was also nominated, abstained from the vote.

The next regular meeting of Bellaire Village Council will be Thursday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. inside council chambers.

Hughes may be reached at