Kovalyk seeks processing fee

BELLAIRE – Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk mentioned to village council early in January about an issue he’s been having with transporting criminals to the Belmont County Jail who are picked up on outstanding warrants.

It stems from the jail receiving a processing fee of $30 per warrant.

The Bellaire officers, or whichever transporting agency in the county that takes the prisoner/s to jail, receives zero compensation.

Kovalyk stated that his department transports between 30-35 arrestees per month on outstanding warrants, meaning gas consumed and miles placed upon the department’s vehicles and times spent outside of village limits for his officers.

The issue came into focus again last week for Kovalyk when 41-year-old Richard Calvin Matthews was picked up outside of Cashland in town on 12 outstanding warrants and transported to the jail.

“That’s $360 in warrant fees that they are collecting,” Kovalyk said of the jail. “And the arresting agency doesn’t get compensated at all.

“It’s tying up our officers and costing us money.”

Money is something the police department, and the village’s general fund in general, doesn’t have.

Kovalyk has unsuccessfully lobbied for a pay raise for his officers repeatedly through the years, trying multiple times the last calendar year.

Each time he’s been rebuffed with the village doesn’t have the money in it’s general fund. Then, Clerk Tom Sable revealed at a recent council meeting that the general fund will likely be in the red following the first quarter of 2013 without significant changes or additional revenue brought in.

Safe to say, money is tight so Kovalyk is looking for any way possible to stem the impending tide of red ink splashing down on his department and stretching an already thin police force even thinner.

In January, Kovalyk proposed that perhaps a portion of that $30 processing fee be set aside for the arresting agency. Or, if not that, then the processing fee be raised so that the department doing the transporting is compensated somehow.

He noted that even $10 would be beneficial. In the case of the Matthews trip, that would have brought in, at minimum, $120 to his department. Kovalyk feels it needs looked into and asked council to take it before the commissioners.

Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland said he doesn’t remember anything of that nature being brought before council before during his tenure.

But he’s also in Kovalyk’s corner in thinking that something should be done.

“There should be a charge put on,” Coffland said. “When the sentence is handed down through the court system, the judges have the right I believe to do so. I think it’s an issue that should be handled between the courts and the local police department.

“They should be able to work out something.

“I understand (Kovalyk’s) concern because they do a lot of running out there and transporting people on warrants and they are the ones that should be paid.”

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com