Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said Thursday that having a full-time deputy stationed at a new substation at Rocky Fork Lake – utilizing a cruiser donated by the neighboring sheriff in Fayette County – will help reduce crime and be “very, very beneficial to the citizens of Highland County and Paint Township.”
Barrera accepted the keys to an office at The Rockhold, Brown & Company Bank branch on North Shore Drive that will serve as the sheriff office’s substation, and another set of keys from Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth for a donated cruiser that will be used by Deputy John Gilbert, who Barrera has assigned to lake duty. In addition to patrolling the lake, Gilbert will also attend various lake association meetings on a regular basis, he said.
Barrera said that having a deputy patrolling what he called “the 9550 area,” which covers Paint Township and “goes all the way around the lake, over into Marshall Township, clear down almost into Carmel,” will result in a more effective crime-reduction effort for lake area residents. He said the new substation will allow the deputy to take calls, file reports and perform other duties without constantly coming back into Hillsboro.
Stanforth said he donated the cruiser because many residents from Fayette County spend time at Rocky Fork, including weekends and vacations, and “it just made a lot of sense with this project the sheriff is putting together” to provide a cruiser to help reduce crime in the region.
Jon Wisecup, CEO of The Rockhold, Brown & Company Bank, said he was approached by Paint Township Trustee Randy Mustard with the request to use an office at the bank for the sheriff’s substation, and he was happy to be able to provide the space.
Wisecup said his bank’s philosophy is to “help the communities we serve, and so this is an opportunity for us to do that.”
Thursday morning’s ceremony was attended by a number of elected officials, lake residents, business owners, tourism officials and individuals connected with the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Project (RFL-ASAP), the project that won a grant of more than $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a plan to improve economic development and fight crime at the lake.
LuAnn Winkle, the Turning Point Applied Learning Center director who will serve as site coordinator for the project, said, “This community has come together and coalesced around this, and it’s not one agency, or one unit of government, or one person, or one business who can do this. It takes a collaborative effort, and I think today’s just a perfect example of that.” She thanked Stanforth and Wisecup for their donations toward the crime reduction effort.
Shane Wilkin, president of the Highland County Board of Commissioners – who was technically the recipient of the grant – said the lake award was a “data driven grant” that came about with the participation of lake area neighborhoods, and that their input made steps like Thursday’s contributions possible.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]