WELCH, W.Va. — Members of the McDowell County Commission believe they can restore funding which will allow Sheriff Martin West to rehire six deputies laid off at the end of the year. However, Commissioner Gordon Lambert said they have to explore what money will be available.
“I think the sheriff has laid six off, but hopefully we can have some money to where we can bring them back,” Lambert said.
The money is coal royalties for mining operations on land deeded to the county’s economic development authority. Southern Mineral is mining the land and believes the operation will start to generate more revenue for the county in the coming months as the market for metallurgical coal increases.
“Hopefully we can talk to the EDA and hopefully they’ll give up some of that money. Then we’ll be able to put some of it in for the sheriff’s department,” Lambert explained.
But before the county can allocate the funding to the sheriff’s department to restore the deputies, they’ll have to reimburse other county workers who agreed to take a pay cut last year as the budget tightened. On the recommendation of their accountant, the county commission cut each county office budget by ten percent and each county employee’s salary by ten percent. The cuts applied to every county department except the sheriff’s department. Lambert said those salary cuts must be restored before any additional funds can be directed to the sheriff’s department.
“If we said, okay we’re going to help the sheriff with the money we got in and he hadn’t taken the cut while everybodyelse had taken the cut, those employees would be suing us,” Lambert said. “It would be discrimination against them.”
Lambert hoped the new money from the coal operation would enable them to restore all salaries in the county and help put additional funds to the sheriff’s department. The restored cuts will only be to the county workers who took a pay cut and not the operating budgets of the various departments. Those operating department budget cuts will remain in effect.
The McDowell County Commission met to discuss the plan in Welch Tuesday, but delayed any action while the county’s accountant examines the level of funding the county will receive from the Southern Mineral operation. Lambert expected they would have the information needed to vote on the idea at their next commission meeting.