Ronceverte City Council approves ordinances; police chief resigns

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By Peggy Mackenzie

In a short Ronceverte City Council meeting on Monday the public hearings and the second readings of two ordinances were approved. The council approved the second reading for the annexation to the city of 6.332 acres. The property owner had requested to bring the property into city limits to provide access from Dawkins Lane onto Davis Stuart Road. Council also approved the second reading to update Ronceverte’s Municipal Code which primarily reflects updates to the West Virginia state code Chapters 3 and 5.

In a citizen comment, city resident Ronnie Baker had questions about the contents of a letter he’d received from attorneys Spilman,Thomas and Battle informing him of a dismissal of a Phase II water rate increase which council had approved last February. Baker was the spokesperson for a group of low income senior citizens’ petition to the PSC in opposition to the water rate increase. That petition caused a delay to the process the city was working on to get its new water project started before the Lewisburg rate increase got under way.

City Manager Reba Mohler explained that a subsequent raise, passed in July, designed to match the increase in water rates from Lewisburg, negated the Phase II rate increase. Mohler said Ronceverte’s rates will eventually increase as part of the water project, but not as reflected by the February 2019 ordinance.

Mayor David Smith announced that council will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.

The council went into executive session at the close of the public meeting to discuss personnel issues, the mayor said.

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In other news, the announcement of the eminent retirement of Ronceverte’s Public Works Department director Sonny Zimmerman prompted several applications for the position. Among them was current Ronceverte Police Chief J.R. “Rusty” Byer Jr., who was selected for the job. He will stay on as chief until a successful applicant can be found. Byer has held the position as police chief since 2012. He was deputy chief before that.

During a telephone interview, Byer says he is not unfamiliar with the demands of the public works department. Prior to police work, his early years while living in Washington D.C. were in the field of construction, building maintenance engineering and paving contracts. He ran his own construction company for five years during that time.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 ½ years and I’m ready for a change,” Byer said, citing the toll on his family life as a major reason for the career shift.

The requirements for the police chief  position include a minimum of eight years experience as a law enforcement officer, five years as a supervisor and a WV law enforcement certificate. “There are a few in the Ronceverte Police Department who qualify and have evinced interest in applying,” he said.