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Criminal tools measure up for vote

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 11:28 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council members will vote on an ordinance Monday, July 22, that creates a misdemeanor offense for possessing tools such as pry bars and bolt cutters that are consistent with property crimes. Law enforcement officials who are pushing for the proposal say that believe the ordinance would prevent burglars from trolling for victims and help the police department solve property crimes.

"A good police department arrests people who break into houses. A great police department changes the environment of the city to stop people from breaking into houses," said Huntington Police Captain Hank Dial, who spoke before city council members at Thursday's work session.

Addressing a few concerns voiced by council members, Dial said the proposal -- if passed -- would follow the same search and seizure rules officers currently abide by and does not leave room for anything unconstitutional. It also would not apply to individuals who possess those tools for the purpose of work or home projects.

"We have to have the same probable cause, the same reasonable suspicion to search someone, but if we're doing a search and we find something, we can act on it," Dial said. "Discretion is a part of something all police officers do."

A similar proposal was introduced in the West Virginia Legislature earlier this year and passed in the state Senate before dying in the House of Delegates amid concerns from rural lawmakers. The ordinance is nearly identical to Nebraska state law and a host of other states with similar laws include Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.

City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 800 5th Ave. Here's a look at other items on the agenda:

SEAT BELTS: Council members will hear the first reading of an ordinance amending article 345 of the city's codified ordinances concerned safety and equipment. According to Mayor Steve Williams, this ordinance would make lack of seat belt use a primary offense for drivers. Lack of seat belt use is already a primary offense in the state.

FIRE DEPARTMENT: Council members will vote on the purchase of three 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe vehicles for the staff fleet of the Huntington Fire Department. Fire Chief Carl Eastham said those vehicles would replace five vehicles and would help relieve some of the staff vehicle-sharing issues. Whiteside Fleet and Commercial in St. Clairsville, Ohio, submitted the lowest bid for the three at $91,273.50.

SNOW REMOVAL: The council will vote on an ordinance authorizing a contract to furnish the city with its annual supply of rock salt for ice and snow removal on city streets. The low bidder was North American Salt Company, which presented a rate cheaper than the previous year, according to David Hagley, director, Public Works Department.

CITY VEHICLES: Members will vote on a three-year lease purchase agreement and a five-year lease purchase agreement to finance various city vehicles. City finance director Deron Runyon said the interest rates would be 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, and a total approval amount of up to $419,000.

SANITATION: Council will vote on an ordinance to furnish the city's sanitation/trash division with one new 25-cubic-yard cab and chassis with refuse packer and one new 11-cubic-yard rear-loading refuse truck. Lowest bidders were West Virginia Tractor Company at $136,000 and World Equipment of Dayton, Ohio at $108,462, respectively.

COMPLIANCE DIVISION: City council will vote on an ordinance to furnish the Inspections and Compliance Division with three pickup trucks at a cost of $55,650. Those vehicles, all mid-1990s models, would replace three older vehicles acquired from state surplus in 2004. The older vehicles would be auctioned, scrapped or used elsewhere, Hagley said.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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