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Grant allows Lewis Co. sheriff's office to keep two positions

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

WESTON -- Last year, some classes offered at Lewis County High School were taught by a man wearing a badge and carrying a gun.

A Prevention and Retention officer stationed there full-time had a full class load, advised faculty and interacted with students.

And Sheriff Robert Rinehart found out this week that the position will be there for a second year. The department received word this week about the renewal of grants that will allow them to keep people in two positions, he said.

Last year was the first for the high school officer, but he already made an impact, Rinehart said.

"It's good to have an officer dedicated to the high school every day," he said.

"We saw a dramatic decrease in incidents there last year. They were down about 50 percent."

The previous year, the department responded to 38 fight reports at the school, he said. Last year that dropped to eight.

The county received $35,000 for the new position, he said. The second grant is for about half that amount, but also is important to the department.

That $16,000 from the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) program is used to pay the salary of a secretary.

"This is how we pay for our secretary," he said. "It saves us a lot of county funds. Always before, we had our doors locked because there wasn't always somebody there. Now they're open."

In addition to greeting guests, the secretary also files and helps the office run smoothly, Rinehart said.

The approximately $16,000 in COPS Fast money from the federal government can be used for technology or to hire a civilian employee, he said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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