NEW CUMBERLAND - New Cumberland City Council is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of vandals who have hit two churches and multiple homes and cars since May.
The acts of vandalism, which date back to May 19, include damage to the outside statue of the Virgin Mary at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and several homes in the vicinity of the church, Police Chief Lester Skinner said.
"It was total chaos that one night," Ward 1 Councilman Will White said at Monday's city council meeting.
GIFT — Keep New Cumberland Beautiful Coordinator George Hines, left, gives New Cumberland mementos to state Sens. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Wheeling, middle, and Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg, during Monday’s meeting of New Cumberland City Council. The senators were there to give Hines a $5,000 grant for city park beautification projects. Hines, in turn, gave them two “sill sitter” replicas of the J. Robert Haworth mural at Swaney Memorial Library. -- Stephen Huba
On Saturday, New Cumberland police received a report of vandalism at New Cumberland Free Methodist Church on South Chester Street. Skinner said vandals broke into the church and spread liquid soap and ketchup on the inside. They wrote the word "crusaders" with the ketchup, he said.
Police have interviewed and administered a polygraph test to one suspect, a juvenile male, and are seeking another, Skinner said, noting he is getting cooperation from the suspects' parents.
Mayor Linda McNeil said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling declined to add money to the reward total.
Longtime city employee George Hines said there also were recent acts of vandalism at Hines Park and the New Cumberland Wharf, the latter involving an Eagle Scout project that was damaged. At Hines Park, seven American flags and flag poles were removed but later recovered.
In other business Monday, council:
Authorized Skinner to hire up to five part-time police officers to fill the schedule for the rest of the year. The police department currently consists of Skinner and Lt. Jeremy Krzys. Skinner said he wants to hire officers from surrounding departments - Chester, Weirton, Follansbee, Hancock County - who can work up to 20 hours a week at an hourly rate of $10 or $11.
Council agreed to continue its search for two full-time officers who would be ready to enter the West Virginia State Police Academy by January. The New Cumberland Police Department has two vacancies with the unexpected resignation of Brian Cave and the hiring of Patrolman Eric Maruca by the Chester Police Department.
Skinner said Cave, who was sworn in as the city's newest officer on June 28, left the police academy of his own accord. Maruca's hiring by Chester fills a vacancy left when new Chester Patrolman Markas Dunlevy resigned in April just prior to entering the academy.
Agreed to repair and reopen the sidewalk on Station Hill. The sidewalk has been officially closed since June 2012, although people still use it.
Agreed to hold a work session to discuss the future of the city's community service program, in which convicted offenders are sentenced to do community service work for the city in lieu of jail time. Hines, who served as community service director for 11 years, resigned his position in June, saying the program has become ineffective because the community service hours are not enforced.
McNeil said the work session will be held with Hines, Skinner, Municipal Court Judge John Ashcraft and Solicitor Kevin Pearl.
Approved the following mayoral appointments: Solicitor Kevin Pearl, Clerk Tammy Jenkins, Judge John Ashcraft, Police Chief Lester Skinner, Building Inspector Shawn Marks, finance committee (Will White and Marks), building enforcement agency (Brian Webster and Marks), police committee (Webster and Judith Bartley), street committee (Pat Jones and Miriam Hess), water/sewer committee (White and Hess), and park board (Webster and Bartley).
(Huba can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)