CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A Harrison County Commissioner says the state’s drug epidemic is behind the need for an increased county budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Harrison County Commission approved a $23.7 million budget for 2019-2020 at its Wednesday meeting.

“After we talked to the Prosecuting Attorney here in Harrison, Rachel Romano, I said, ‘Quite frankly, crime and individuals’ bad habits are killing us,'” Commissioner Patsy Trecost said during a recent appearance on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.” “We’re continually paying for people’s bad habits in society because her budget as Prosecuting Attorney went up some $100,000.”

Personnel also increased — from 12 probation officers in Harrison County to 15.

“Without a doubt the workload keeps growing and growing,” Trecost said. “Right now, we have a situation where drug task forces, our deputies, our police officers are doing their part, and prosecuting attorneys throughout the state are doing their part, the judges are doing their part, and it always goes back to ‘Well we’re overcrowding the prisons.'”

But Trecost feels that resources are being used inefficiently by attempting to tackle the problem in the wrong way.

“Quite frankly, I can’t say again, we’ve got to change the way we’re thinking about this,” he said. “The answer isn’t more probation officers. That just means more bad people are in the street and they’re having to keep track of them.”

Trecost said there are two things the Mountain State needs in order to fix the drug epidemic — blacktop and concrete.

“We need blacktop, one, to fix the roads so we can get to work safely as working-class citizens and give 40 percent of our money that we earn back in lieu of taxes,” he said. “And two, we need more concrete so we can build walls and put bars behind them, and stop being so soft on crime.”

The tactics from the 1980s of “Just Say No” on signs, billboards and commercials isn’t working, Trecost said.

“We need people to be punished for their actions,” he said.

“What’s going to work is letting people know all across the country, you come to West Virginia and sell drugs, you’re going to serve time,” Trecost added. “Quite frankly that will cut the budget back so that we can give money back to the working class, as opposed to continuing to fund things that are trying to help people with a bad habit. Every action has a consequence.”

Once offenders serve their time, Trecost said that’s when to can show sympathy and help to blend them back into the working class.

“From Wheeling to Flatwoods, our economy is so good in West Virginia right now. It’s going to continue to grow. We don’t have a job shortage, we have a worker shortage,” he said.

The problem with the current tactics, Trecost said, is that the same individuals are repeatedly arrested and prosecuted.

“I don’t care if it’s the first offense or second offense, you’re going to serve a certain amount of time behind concrete walls and you’re going to be behind bars,” he said. “I’m going to tell you right now, people will stop. Then because the drugs aren’t there to sell, people won’t take it and we’ll have less of the addiction.”

But Trecost said he does believe in continuing to spend money on education.

“Let every 12 year old know, ‘Hey listen, please don’t do this. You’re going to shorten your life expectancy, you’re never going to be part of a working class, you’re never going to be able to raise a family,'” he said. “These drugs steal the souls of our children, and everybody regardless of how old they are, is somebody’s child.”