MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After leading the Morgantown Police Department for a little over nine years, Chief of Police Ed Preston has submitted his resignation.
WAJR News has confirmed Preston is stepping down as the head of the police department and recommending Deputy Chief Eric Powell step into the role of police chief.
Preston’s departure comes as city leaders grapple with the reality of diminished tax revenues due, in part, to the economic shutdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. City Council recently approved $3.1 million in budget reductions for the 2020-21 budget and department heads in the city have been told to slash spending.
Part of the city’s plan to reduce expenditures is to leave positions that are currently vacant, unfilled. In the police department, there are currently ten vacancies and five of those will remain unfilled, which will save the city $314,000. If the the department is able to fill the half of the ten vacancies, despite a citywide hiring freeze, the department would have a total of 77 officers.
City employees, including police officers, are being asked to consider voluntary, temporary salary reductions or a reduction in hours. The city is also asking retirement eligible employees to consider doing so.
Additionally, City Council approved a revision to the budget for the current fiscal year moving $108,500 out of the contingency fund to cover expenses including $15,000 to hire a consultant to lead a city council strategic planning session as well as $48,000 for the recruitment of a new permanent city manager and for the moving expenses of the city’s new Arts Director.
Council also approved a pay raise for Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli, from $50.97 per hour to $59.14 per hour, while she serves as the Interim-City Manager.
Outgoing City Manager Paul Brake, whose is leaving for another position in Michigan on May 14, warned council during its meeting on Tuesday, the $3.1 million in cuts to the FY21 budget were likely just the first wave and further reductions will necessary in the future.
Preston’s hope is that the savings from his resignation will preserve the jobs of other officers on the force.
Preston took over as Chief of Police in Morgantown in 2011, succeeding Chief Phil Scott, after spending 19 years with the police department New Bern, NC. Preston also served six years in the United States Marine Corps. Preston was appointed to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Board in 2017 and is a published author. Preston has written textbooks on policing principles and police training.