Beckley Common Council praises retired police chief Lonnie Christian | State & Region

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold and Beckley Common Council on Tuesday wished Beckley Police Chief Lonnie Christian a happy retirement.

Christian played a fundamental role in the design and development of the historic BPD headquarters and memorial to fallen officers on Neville Street, which was dedicated in June 2019.

A captain with 26 years of experience, he was appointed Chief in February 2014.

Christian managed digital and technological data and modernized department files. He designed the new cruisers and developed and implemented various training programs, policies and procedures.

“This is a bittersweet time for those of us who have worked with Chief Christian over the past eight years,” Rappold said. “He has made the decision to retire and we are very excited for Chief and whatever the future holds for him.

“But we will certainly miss his leadership and I cannot say enough about the organization that has brought Chief Christian to the Beckley City Police Department.

“His long-term planning was exceptional.”

Rappold said Christian is known for his forward-thinking ideals and attention to detail.

Council, who met in person, gave Christian an ovation.

Capt. Dean Bailey is expected to be a strong candidate for the chief’s position, according to earlier comments from law enforcement officials, but the council did not mention a successor during Tuesday’s meeting.

The issue of opening the regular meetings with prayer was also raised by Kevin Price and Ward 4 Councilor Rappold.

The council recently began meeting in person, although the public is still required to attend remotely.

On Tuesday, Price asked Rappold if the opening could resume with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. Before Covid, both were usually offered at the opening of council meetings.

“Could we begin vows and prayer as we did for many, many years?” Price asked.

Rappold seemed to hesitate briefly.

“I think we should definitely keep the promise,” he replied after a punch. “I’ve read so much about prayer across the country, about the separation of church and state.

“I’m a bit ambivalent about that.

“My personal position is, I think the promise is something we have to do.”

He added that he would like to speak about public prayer.

“I think there’s a lot of private prayer going on in this group because I know the people as well as I do,” he added.

Rappold and At-Large Councilor Sherrie Hunter are members of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, while Price, Ward 5 Councilor Janine Bullock, Ward 3 Councilor Robert Dunlap and At-Large Councilor Cody Reedy are of the Protestant Christian faith and Ward 1 Councilor Tom Sopher is a leader of the Jewish Temple Beth-El.

Reedy suggested that local pastors from different churches come and speak privately with council members, even if it is before the public meetings. Rappold said he would enjoy this time with the pastors before the public meeting.

The Mayor also announced that the West Virginia Land Trust, a statewide agency that owns and protects land and natural resources, has asked the City of Beckley to annex land. Prosecutor Bill File and Corey Lilly, the city’s outdoor economic development specialist, will meet with the Land Trust Board to discuss the annexation, Rappold said.

III

For other actions:

l The Council approved a resolution establishing a dedicated fund at the Beckley Area Foundation to create the Bill Withers sculpture. The minimum requirement is $10,000. Citizens can now make tax-deductible donations to the Withers sculpture.

l The council approved a first-reading regulation allowing the Beckley Sanitary Board to begin the process with the State Public Service Commission to adjust sewer charges by approximately $12.40 per month for the average residential user. The public hearing and second reading is April 26th.

l The Council approved at first reading a regulation authorizing the acquisition and construction of extensions and improvements to existing sanitary sewage systems. The council had received information about the ordinance involving the purchase of land near Carter Street ahead of the meeting. The second reading and public hearing is April 26th.

l The Council approved at first reading an ordinance adjusting stormwater charges from $3.75 per month to $7.41 per month for a single-family home user. In response to a question from human rights chair Danielle Stewart during the public comment session, Beckley Sanitary Board manager Jeremiah Johnson said the plan takes into account the tariffs of commercial tariff payers. Stewart pointed out that most of the city’s stormwater runoff is caused by water flowing over impervious surfaces such as parking lots. The second reading and public hearing is scheduled for April 26th.

The council approved a second reading ordinance authorizing the city to acquire 142.27 acres from Pinecrest Development Corporation and settle an outstanding debt of $325,645.72 and pay the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority leasehold to Forward Southern West Virginia for $1,500 per month. The City will also receive all of Pinecrest Plaza South’s leases in excess of the outbound lease payment. Rappold said the city will close the property on March 31. He noted that the acquisition was “historic” for the city.

l The Council approved amendments to the Code enforcement regulations to meet state requirements. Chief Code Enforcement Officer Donnie Morgan and others said it was routine.

l The council approved a $96,987 bid from Frye Roofing to replace the roof of the WJLS building that Matt Bickey recently donated to the city. Councilor Sopher reminded the council that any grant the city plans to pursue will require the city to apply for the grant before work begins. Rappold said the space is being used by the WV Hive Business Incubation Program and that HIVE funding is being pursued. Councilor Price said a crane will be present at the roof assembly for a specific time. Price said if WJLS’s equipment can be removed from the roof, the city should coordinate the removal with the time the crane is already on the building.

l Spring cleaning starts on April 4th. Residents of each community should place permitted items at the curb for removal. City crews pick up the items from the stations in numerical order, prompting residents of some neighborhoods in Station 5 to report that dogs and bad weather are disrupting the trash that has to sit on their curbs for long periods of time. Instead, they called for the introduction of a lottery system.

l Rappold asked Reedy to meet with Chief Christian to discuss matters related to the police officer’s pension fund.

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