By LACIE PIERSON
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One Cabell County legislator is a sponsor of two bills he says will help cut down on the county’s jail bill and help protect first responders.
One bill that Del. Chad Lovejoy is a sponsor of, House Bill 2845, would defer some of the costs of regional jails from the state’s 55 counties to the state, and the other, House Bill 2916, would allow for non-police first responders to carry firearms as long as they have proper training.
HB 2845 was introduced in the House of Delegates on March 8 with a total of 10 sponsors, and it is nearly identical to Senate Bill 516, which was introduced March 3.
Currently, counties are responsible for the cost of housing an inmate in a regional jail after they are convicted and up until they are sentenced to a state prison.
On average, the time between a person’s conviction and sentencing is six weeks, Lovejoy said.
Lovejoy said data from the West Virginia Association of Counties shows that the cost to counties to pay for housing inmates, which costs $48.25 per inmate per day, in the interim from conviction to sentencing time was $4.9 million.
If either bill passes, Cabell County Commissioner Nancy Cartmill said it would save Cabell County about $500,000 a year. While she is supportive of both bills, Cartmill said the measure would be a small but significant drop in the bucket for Cabell.
“The $500,000 wouldn’t pay two months’ jail bills in Cabell County,” she said. “Our jail bill runs well over $300,000 a month, but anything at this point would be beneficial.”
Cartmill also referred to a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling in September 2016, which said the Webster County Commission, despite dwindling tax revenue, had to pay its regional jail bill, which, at the time, had gone unpaid to the tune of $1.5 million. Webster County’s jail bill averages about $40,000 per month, according to a report from the West Virginia Record.
In a separate proposal through HB 2916, Lovejoy and two other delegates mean to allow firefighters and members of ambulance crews to carry firearms as long as they complete firearms training and have earned certification equivalent to what is required of members of their sheriff’s offices.
Carrying a firearm would not be mandatory for the non-police responders in the legislation.
If firefighters, emergency medical service personnel or ambulance crew members complete the training, they can seek reimbursement from their respective departments and authorities.
“We’ve got situations where we’re sending first responders into drug houses and areas of danger, particularly with overdoses,” Lovejoy said. “They have to wait for police to get there. When they show up, they often are the literal first responders and don’t have police with them in areas of danger. Right now, we don’t let them defend or protect themselves.”
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