Monday, October 12, 2020 at 6 p.m. UPDATE: RAINELLE, WV (WVNS) — Two weeks ago, 59News spoke with community members and Rainelle Town Recorder, Bill Bell, about the reported lack of law enforcement in the town.
While this issue has yet to be resolved, people living in Rainelle, like Molisha Samples, are not happy with town leaders.
“I think the statement is a lot of blame placing,” Samples said. “I think both the mayor and the council need to accept blame and responsibility for everything going on in town. It needs to stop being a tit-for-tat, you did this, no, you did this. It needs to stop. They need to come together and think about what is best for the town and for it’s residents.”
On Sept. 29, Mayor Jason Smith released a statement regarding the conflict. He said “Instead, the Recorder, as well as most of the City Council, continues to drive down a one-way street pushing all their hate and aggression toward the Town’s Mayor…”
“The Mayor is really a figurehead for the town and supposed to be a spokesperson and the best person in this town to represent our area of Rainelle, and we’re severely lacking in that department right now,” Samples said.
Alfred Ayers lived in Rainelle for 13 years. Now, he lives up the road in McGraws, but has family in Rainelle and is still involved in the community.
“I haven’t ever met the Mayor,” Ayers said.
Ayers isn’t the only one. People told 59News they have never even seen Mayor Smith.
For many, they told 59News they want leaders to come together and consider what is in the best interest for Rainelle and its people.
“I always did love Rainelle,” Ayers said. “I come through here. My dad used to bring me through here on a motorcar.”
59News reached out to both Bill Bell and Mayor Jason Smith for comment. Both declined.
ORIGINAL STORY — 6:48 p.m., Sept. 29, 2020: The people living in Rainelle are demanding answers from City Council members. At a Town Hall Meeting Monday, September 28, 2020, their concerns were brought to light. A big issue: a lack of police presence in the town.
Community members said they do not feel safe. Currently, the Rainelle Police Department is operating with a staff of two: the Chief and one Sergeant.
59News spoke with Jaclyn Johnson. She told 59News she had her car broken into Monday night. Johnson said she called police, but no one was on duty. She said they still have yet to file a police report.
“Actually my mother and I, we just drove up.. Nobody on duty,” Johnson said. “So I’ve called another local police officer and they’re still waiting to take the report.”
Johnson is not the only one worried. Melissa Manning, another resident of Rainelle, said a lack of police presence is keeping bigger issues in the forefront.
“I don’t have the fear of what’s going on as bad as some of the people do,” Manning said. “I understand their fear. I understand and respect their concerns, but there does need to be more of a presence made.”
Town Recorder Bill Bell said he does not want his community to be afraid.
“We live in a community that has elderly people in it and they’re fearful to live in their own homes or even come out and get the mail out of their mailboxes,” Bell said. “I think it’s unacceptable that our community has to live in fear.”
Rainelle Police Chief Dean Fankell provided this statement:
“When this administration took office fifteen (15) months ago, the Rainelle Police Department had a staff of four (4) full-time officers and a vacant part-time position. Currently, our Police Department is only staffed with two (2) full-time officers due to certain members of the Town Council refusing to allow the vacant positions to be filled while at the same time pointing their fingers and blaming the Mayor, Police Chief, and Police Department for all the Town’s issues. Meanwhile residents and businesses within the Town continue to be charged a ‘municipal fee’ that is supposed to include police protection. In last night’s council meeting, Recorder Bill Bell claimed that the ‘municipal fee’ could not be used to pay for labor, but it’s surely not being used for any other purpose either. In a recent council meeting he (Bell) bragged about how much money he had saved the Town. Residents and business owners deserve better from the Town, instead of the continued childish games and personal attacks upon the Mayor and Police Chief all while hoarding money in a bank account.”Dean Fankell
When the city of Rainelle will get additional officers remains to be seen.
People 59News spoke with said the issue could stem from bigger administrative issues.
59News also reached out to Mayor Jason Smith who has now declared a town emergency to hire officers.
I’m the Mayor of Rainelle and I’d like to respond to all the slandering and defamation of character that I and my police department have been experiencing over the last several months. I’m declaring a town emergency and will hire police officers with or without the help of council. Recorder Bill Bell and council members John Wyatt, Martha Levisay, as well as Danny Milam made it their mission to be anti-police. Anything they can orchestrate they will and this is the individuals that you citizens voted for. I have all the proof in the world to expose these individuals and if any citizens would like copies of my emails just let me know by responding to email@example.com and I’ll provide you with the information that will clearly make you think twice before voting for these individuals. Ask yourself what have they accomplish for you the citizens of Ranielle over the last 15 months of office. All you see going on now is prior administration. Bill Bell hasn’t done anything in 15 months to better the town whatsoever. He doesn’t do the work work of the recorder, his secretary and grant administrator do the work so he can stroke his ego.Jason Smith, Mayor of Rainelle