Colonial Beach Vice-Mayor Tommy Edwards said out loud what other council members have been emailing: Town policing should be handed over or merged with the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office. But that may not be so easy.
“The attorneys will tell you, C.O. Balderson will tell you, neither of those are an option,” said Mayor Mike Ham. “Right now, we are called upon to make a decision
whether or not we want to abolish the town police department. We can’t just merge it, give it away or say, ‘take it’.”
Ham said, “There are rumors everywhere that certain people, maybe the council, maybe the whole entire town have asked Sheriff C.O. Balderson, quote, can he take over our police department? Or, quote, can we merge our police department with theirs?”
According to Edwards, the majority of council members, Linda Brubaker, Jim Chiarello, Wanda Goforth and Tim Curtin have voiced their opinions via email.
The discussion began when the Town Council took up hiring a new police chief.
“Twenty-nine applications are sitting in a book in town hall for the members to look through,” said Jim Chiarello.
But Curtin said he would not vote in support of hiring a new police chief until all options are considered.
“How do I say this without getting anyone more upset with me than some already are?” Curtin said. “I’m a little leery of putting this into high gear, until we can be sure whether we’ve examined all our options in this area.”
Edwards, a retired firefighter and the council member in charge of public safety, spoke directly to council members.
“Why in the world do we want to think of bringing a gentlemen in to interview for this job when the majority want to bring the Sheriff’s department in?” Edwards said. “Why would we want to embarrass a man, bring him in here to interview him and say, ‘by the way, sir, you ain’t gonna have this job but six months because we want to go to Westmoreland County!’”
“I have not said, publicly, that I am for or against a merger. I did say I would welcome a dialogue with Sheriff Balderson,” said Brubaker.
In January of this year, then chief Kenneth Blevins, Sr., resigned from the town police force during a closed session portion of the council meeting. Immediately following his resignation, Captain William Seay was named acting police chief by Mayor Ham and the seated council members. No reason was ever given for Blevins’s abrupt departure from the force.