Fair Share

MIKE KOVALYK makes a good point, one that could definitely boost Belmont County police department coffers.

The Bellaire police chief is seeking to receive reimbursement for transporting suspects picked up on outstanding warrants to the Belmont County Jail. Currently, Bellaire, or any other police agency in the county, gets any financial compensation for such duty.

The county jail, however, receives a processing fee of $30 per warrant.

Kovalyk says his department transports between 30-35 arrestees per month on outstanding warrants. It is all done in the line of duty, but such work does prove costly, especially to a police department already stressed financially.

Gas consumed and miles placed upon the department’s vehicles as well as time spent outside of village limits for officers all adds up. While police forces such as Bellaire are doing all the grunt work, they do so with no monetary reimbursement.

We believe Kovalyk has a legitimate beef.

It is a practice we believe needs reviewed. There should be a happy medium where the jail gets its money while the transporting agency also benefits.

A $30 transaction fee might not sound like much, but Kovalyk points out one instance where he recently transported a suspect to the jail on 12 outstanding warrants. That totals $360 transaction fees.

Even if Bellaire would just get a third of that, a $120 stipend would be be a nice little windfall to Bellaire’s police force.

Belmont County is home to may outstanding and passionate police agencies, many of which are in financial binds.

We urge county officials to take a look at finding an equitable solution to the transaction fee disparity.

bied for a pay raise for his officers repeatedly through the years, trying multiple times the last calendar year.

Each time he’s been rebuffed with the village doesn’t have the money in it’s general fund. Then, Clerk Tom Sable revealed at a recent council meeting that the general fund will likely be in the red following the first quarter of 2013 without significant changes or additional revenue brought in.

Safe to say, money is tight so Kovalyk is looking for any way possible to stem the impending tide of red ink splashing down on his department and stretching an already thin police force even thinner.

In January, Kovalyk proposed that perhaps a portion of that $30 processing fee be set aside for the arresting agency. Or, if not that, then the processing fee be raised so that the department doing the transporting is compensated somehow.

He noted that even $10 would be beneficial. In the case of the Matthews trip, that would have brought in, at minimum, $120 to his department. Kovalyk feels it needs looked into and asked council to take it before the commissioners.

Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland said he doesn’t remember anything of that nature being brought before council before during his tenure.

But he’s also in Kovalyk’s corner in thinking that something should be done.

“There should be a charge put on,” Coffland said. “When the sentence is handed down through the court system, the judges have the right I believe to do so. I think it’s an issue that should be handled between the courts and the local police department.

“They should be able to work out something.

“I understand (Kovalyk’s) concern because they do a lot of running out there and transporting people on warrants and they are the ones that should be paid.”

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com