By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In an effort to combat the perception that downtown Bluefield is unsafe, the Bluefield Police Department plans to begin foot patrols Aug. 2.
Chief D.M. Dillow said after Tuesday’s meeting of the Bluefield City Board the plan is to have a foot patrol in the downtown and South Bluefield area. Dillow said he had been working on the plan since becoming chief. The patrols would be mostly during the summer months and during the day.
“I have an officer who will patrol the downtown area and into the South Bluefield area,” Dillow said. “I have been working on that (patrols) for the last few months.”
Some officers are now undergoing training, but Dillow said the department would have the patrol as along as officers are available. One parking enforcement officer will patrol on foot downtown along with a regular police officer.
“Hopefully this will help eliminate the perception that downtown is not safe,” Dillow said.
In September, the officer on foot patrol will rotate to school duty in Bluefield, and go on foot patrol when available. Mercer County schools open Aug. 15, but foot patrols will continue into September until the weather begins to change, Dillow said.
The city board asked Dillow to speak during the meeting about a recent shooting incident July 2 near the East River Playground on Augusta Street. The incident occurred when individuals who had been arguing on Facebook agreed to meet after 2 a.m. near the playground. They met at a dead end street near the playground where one fired a shotgun, Ferguson said. Three people were injured and one arrest was made.
“This was something planned by two individuals except for the gunfire,” Ferguson said. Police had received 14 calls in the vicinity in the past two years, with one fight.
“Would you say our city parks are safe?” Ferguson asked Chief Dillow.
“I would,” Dillow replied.
In other business, the Bluefield City Board approved a payment of $36,611 to Swope Construction for work on the Scott Street Parking Center. When asked by Art Riley of the Bluefield Downtown Merchants Association about the total cost, City Manager Jim Ferguson said the sum was $2,536,000. Another $12,000 was spent for landscaping.
The city board voted unanimously to revise the city Public Works Street Department budget by $68,000 to cover the expense of two one-ton dump trucks. One will be a new truck equipped with a snowplow, and the other dump truck will be a used vehicle, Ferguson said, adding he believed the city had the revenue to cover the cost.
Another item included authorization to accept a $105,000 bid and enter into a contract with R.M. Huffman Co. to replace the gymnasium floor at Bluefield Auditorium. The authorization was passed unanimously.
During the public comment period on the agenda, Bluefield resident Richard Lawson of Lindsay Street near Frederick Street inquired about having his street paved.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people in Bluefield do not know the place even exists,” he told the city board. “Getting to my house is like going through a mug bog.”
Ferguson said he could personally come to Lawson’s home and even accept his invitation to a cup of coffee. Paving has been scheduled for October, and it might be possible to put the project on the schedule, he said.
The current Bluefield City Board of Directors will hold their final meeting on Tuesday, July 23 at 6 p.m. The newly elected board will hold their first meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at noon.