Bellville safety discussion includes talk of drug suppliers, mosquitoes, crosswalks

BELLVILLE — Safety in a village this size is a hefty topic, members of a committee studying several issues is finding.

The safety committee for the village in a Tuesday meeting was told there are four full time police officers now, with several people on a part time basis.

One person recently placed on full time status, Officer Thomas Queen, was responsible for the arrest of two persons on drug charges March 22. Those two persons, from Mount Vernon, had suspected drugs with them. Also, Queen found a loaded firearm in the vehicle the two were using.

Police Chief Ron Willey told committee members Tuesday night the staff goes through numerous training sessions. He said training probably helped Queen in that arrest situation.

People here have been warned about the need for heightened security, within village areas, the schools, and developing sites along I-71 and State Route 97 West.

The safety committee listened to a presentation by Willey, and got introduced to several other topics that fall under the “safety” umbrella.

That can include something like use of crosswalks, and taking care of nasty summertime mosquitoes.

Willey said the seizure of the drugs in the March 22 arrest means the village will get a portion of that $11,000 amount because it is considered the proceeds of a drug arrest. He said details of that arrest must work its way through the court system. The county prosecutor’s office would also get a portion.

Willey said the breakdown might be 60 to 70 per cent for the village, and the remainder to the prosecutor’s office.

Willey said he is working with school officials on staging an event where an intruder into the school would be “simulated.”

That is being worked out with Principal Kirsten DeVito, of the Bellville Elementary School.

Willey said “reunification” is being worked on. That is what is done if an evacaution is needed and parents have to get back together with their children.

Willey said he wants the “kids safe, really safe.”

He said he hopes these exercises won’t ever be needed, but this is something people in the village need to know more about.

Willey said the village has made “long, great strides” in improving everyone’s safety. Voters passed a three mill levy in the November election, which was designated for use by the police department.

Though the village has four full time police officers, more help is needed. Several people are on part time status.

It is difficult to obtain full-time officers, Willey said, for several reasons.

There is much competition among villages and towns for qualified personnel. Willey said the North Central State College police academy now has only eight persons attending. He said if 40 per cent of the academy graduates work out that is a good number.

A lot of people are no longer interested in pursuing a law enforcement career after they see some of the recent stories covering foul-ups by police officers in various U.S. cities, Willey said.

The department is doing background checks on two persons who are “certified police officers.” The problem, however, is that if a person comes on board, he or she will have to be trained here.

Willey said Richland County can’t fill its vacancies. Mansfield says it wants 11 officers.

Once an officer comes on board, training sessions can cost a village about $3,000, said Willey.

Willey gave his opinion on abuse of village crosswalks. Several committee members said they know many people ignore the crosswalks.

Mayor Teri Brenkus said she wondered about putting flashing lights at the crosswalks.

Willey said “you could put fireworks to it and people wouldn’t stop.”

The mosquito difficulty falls under the description of what the safety committee should do. It is supposed to deal with the “health, safety and welfare” of village residents.

Brenkus said the Richland County Health Department sprays for the mosquitoes, and the way it has done that job has changed.

The village gets charged by the mile for spraying. Somebody has to monitor traps that have been set, and count the mosquitoes. When that was done last year that was how mosqitoes carrying West Nile virus were found.

Village administrator Larry Weirich said people need to know that mosquito spraying only kills mosquitoes that are flying on the nights they spray.

Bellville Police Chief Ron Willey confers with members of the safety comittee for the village of Bellville. The issue of security, at schools and in the village, was discussed. Louise Swartzwalder | Bellville Star Police Chief Ron Willey confers with members of the safety comittee for the village of Bellville. The issue of security, at schools and in the village, was discussed. Louise Swartzwalder | Bellville Star