Hess now a New Cumberland Council member

NEW CUMBERLAND – The city may do away with its community service program for convicted offenders in the wake of the director’s resignation.

City Council accepted Community Service Director George Hines III’s resignation at its regular meeting Monday night. Hines’ resignation letter said the system is not working and needs to be reformed – something Hines reiterated later in an interview.

“It started out pretty good, but it’s gotten to the point where there’s no respect toward me or the program. There are no checks and balances. They won’t put them in (Northern Regional) Jail because it costs almost $60 a day. That’s money out of the city’s coffers,” said Hines, who has been community service director for 11 years.

The program allows people who are convicted in New Cumberland Municipal Court to do community service for the city in lieu of jail time. But enforcing the program is difficult, council members said.

“They’re doing as little as they can to just put their time in,” Councilman Shawn Marks said. “Nobody’s getting anything done.”

“Oversight is difficult, and these fellows who come to do community service are not exactly self-starters or finishers,” Mayor Linda McNeil said.

“They don’t show up, and nothing’s done to them,” former Mayor Richard Blackwell said.

Council members agreed that there needs to be consequences for offenders who do not fulfill their community service hours. “If there are no consequences to be paid, the only person that’s suffering is me,” Hines said.

Police Lt. Jeremy Krzys said before the program is closed down, those people who are already in the system need to complete their community service.

Prior to his resignation, Hines could often be seen with offenders doing landscaping, beautification or cleanup work at Pride Park or other locations throughout the city.

“It was just a way to get work done for the community through community service,” Hines said. “I wasn’t doing it for the money, believe me. I was just doing it to help the community.”

McNeil, on her first day as mayor, recommended the program be reviewed by city Solicitor Kevin Pearl, Municipal Judge John Ashcraft, council’s police committee and the New Cumberland Police Department.

Also Monday, council approved McNeil’s appointment of Miriam Hess, 56, to take the seat formerly held by longtime Councilman Arthur “Jack” Watson. The vote was unanimous. McNeil then administered the oath of office to Hess, who also serves on the city’s water-sewerage board.

A graduate of East Liverpool High School, Hess said she has been living in New Cumberland for five years.

Hess said she was honored by McNeil’s appointment but didn’t say yes immediately. “I needed some time to ponder that before I gave her my answer. … I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people, and I just figured it was time for me to do what I could to contribute,” she said.

Because Hess is on council by mayoral appointment, she will serve two years of what is normally a four-year term and then have to run for election, said City Clerk Tammy Jenkins.

Watson, 76, had been the Ward 2, Seat B councilman since 2002 but did not run for re-election in May because of health issues, he said.

Council deferred action on a request from Linda Settle, representing the Never Alone groups, to designate the baseball fields on South Chester Street as a drug-free zone.

“There’s a lot of drug activity down there,” said Settle, who owns Linda’s Dairy Dream on North Chester Street.

Pearl said drug-free zones usually are established close to playgrounds and schools so that those who commit drug crimes in those areas get stiffer penalties.

McNeil asked Pearl to come back with a specific recommendation, including legislation, for the August council meeting.

In other business, council:

– Discussed the need for more speed bumps in alleys. Council’s street committee will research the issue further.

– Tabled action on a request from Change the Future WV to hold diabetes meetings in the New Cumberland Municipal Building multipurpose room.

– Learned that the public hearing for proposed water and sewer rate increases has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. July 22.