Richards named Elkins police chief

ELKINS – A familiar face has been named chief of the Elkins Police Department. Elkins City Council unanimously voted Thursday to appoint Capt. S.D. Richards to lead the force after conducting a search and interviewing multiple candidates for the job.

Richards began serving as interim chief beginning in October, after the retirement of former Chief Rob White.

“He’s doing a great job,” Elkins Mayor Van Broughton told The Inter-Mountain following Thursday’s council meeting. “We plan on sitting down and discussing the direction of the police force.”

Richards was promoted to captain during the April 3 Council meeting. Councilman Mark Scott, 3rd Ward, led the search team for a new chief. Broughton said the city had 42 applicants, including Richards. He said 15 interviews were conducted by the search committee and four applicants were brought in for final interviews April 10.

During Thursday’s meeting, Scott made a motion for council to enter into an executive session for a personnel matter: appointing a police chief.

The motion was seconded by Councilman Bob Woolwine, 1st Ward, and council moved behind closed doors at 7:25 p.m. Elkins City Clerk Sutton Stokes and City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith were asked to attend the private session.

Upon returning to open session at 8:05 p.m., Broughton announced that no decisions were made during executive session. Scott then made a motion “to suspend the search for a police chief and name Capt. Richards as acting police chief.”

The motion was seconded by Councilman Gene Ochsendorf, 2nd Ward, and was passed 9-0 by council. Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

“I am here and my door will always be open,” Richard told The Inter-Mountain following the meeting.

Richards said during his time as interim chief he began several training programs. He said the department is funded for 11 officers and will soon have all the ranks full. He said two new officers will begin their probationary period on April 25 and a third officer will be sent for training during the summer.

Richards said having all the officers working will help the city make better use of the two drug dogs on the force.

“We want to get the K9 units out doing what we need,” Richards said. “We have had to utilize those officers for patrols.”

Richards explained that his title within the department will be chief of police, but he will retain his civil service rank of captain and will retire with that rank.

In other council action:

Council passed a resolution in support of a Woodland Development project near Highland Meadows.

The city will write a letter of support to assist with obtaining federal housing tax credits. The funding will help construct a “mixed-generation” housing complex near Wilson Lane.

Council also passed the final reading of two ordinances that will annex property owned by Woodlands Development into the city of Elkins.

The first piece of property was for the land to be used to construct the housing complex near Wilson Lane. The second piece is located near North Elementary School. Woodland Development requested both pieces of property be brought into corporate limits.

A resolution was passed allowing the city to draw $120,000 for a line of credit for the water system improvement project. City Attorney Gerri Roberts explained the funding will be used to help acquire several pieces of property for the construction of the new water treatment plant.

“We are trying to get all the money available we can,” Roberts said. “We have commitments for the property and this would allow us to finalize the negotations.”

Roberts said the city’s goal has been to work with property owners before the city begins the process of filing for eminent domain to take the property.

“It is simpler and cheaper if we can negotiate the purchase of the property without filing for eminent domain,” Roberts said.

The next Elkins City Council meeting is slated for 7 p.m. May 1 at City Hall.