WHEELING - Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler is looking into how vehicle registration laws pertain to out-of-state workers, such as those working on natural gas drilling jobs.
After receiving a question during an Elm Grove neighborhood watch meeting Wednesday about residents with vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates, Butler said the West Virginia Sheriffs' Association's attorney is examining how the the out-of-state plate law should impact gas drilling and pipeline workers living and working in Ohio County. Butler said the state code requires people who move to West Virginia to get new plates after 30 days of residence in the state. However, he said, the code also has a provision that may require gas workers to get new plates after 90 days.
He noted some of the workers are opting to pay the Department of Motor Vehicles $50 every 60 days for a temporary permit instead getting new plates.
"I talked to a guy - I said, 'Why in the world would you pay $50 every 60 days ... He said, 'You don't understand, the amount of my per diem they are giving me here, it's worth my while being an out-of-state resident,'" Butler said.
Butler said he expects the sheriff association's lawyer to get a ruling from the West Virginia Attorney General's office on the matter. If the office rules that such workers must get a new plate after 90 days - that they are not exempt from the law - the sheriff's department is going to be very busy making sure the workers are complying with the law, he said.
In another matter, Butler said his deputies are giving tickets for drivers who are texting while driving now that the new law is in place.
"We're still seeing a lot of people texting and talking on their phones while they're driving," Butler said. "We've written a few tickets already and we'll be writing more."
Butler said texting while driving is now a primary offense, meaning a person can be pulled over and ticketed by an officer for that infraction alone. Much like the seat belt law, talking on a cell phone while driving is a secondary offense, meaning a person can only be ticketed for it if they are breaking some other law first.
Residents also received a presentation from First Choice Fire Extinguishers of Wheeling about fire safety and proper use of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, along with fire extinguishers.
It was noted the annual Citywide Neighborhood Watch meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Louie's Hotdogs in the Elm Terrace Shopping Plaza in Elm Grove.