3/22/2013 7:02 PM
by Karen Franklin
WAR - A Thursday afternoon meth lab bust in War is causing McDowell County deputies to worry about their department's budget.
Sheriff Martin West told WOAY his agency doesn't have proper gear to combat active meth labs, and although some of his men will be training for these situations in Charleston, the department is in need of more funding.
"We just need better equipment, better vehicles," West said. "We just need more assistance from the County Commission -- that's where our funding comes from -- you know, to get out and do an efficient job."
Deputies arrested Timothy Stone and Donald Simpkins after they were found cooking meth in an abandoned trailer. The pair face charges of felony conspiracy and operating a clandestine lab.
The four deputies on the scene said they were subsequently exposed to toxic chemicals. Three were treated on the scene, and one was transported to a local hospital but has since been released.
"It just overcomes you immediately," Chief Deputy Roger Deel said. "As soon as I hit the air outside, that's when I coughed probably for an hour and just off and on. Then my skin was burning. My ears, my face, it was just a bad scene."
"These four deputies are strong and healthy, yet they were overcome," he said. "These two defendants stood in the meth lab. When we arrested them, came outside and we handcuffed them, they didn't show any effects at all like our deputies did because of the constant use of this stuff."
But the County Commission said it's doing everything it can with funds that aren't available.
"We just got through having the budget hearings, and there's not any money there to give [West]," Commissioner Gordon Lambert told WOAY. "We told him if there was money left at the end of the year, then we could see about giving him some money."
Deputies said they need the right masks and breathing apparatuses for their line of work.
"The budget remains the same, but the problems are getting more, situations are getting worse and more people are involved," Deel said.
Authorities also said an adjacent trailer was set fire during the early morning hours of Friday. They believe an arsonist is to blame, and both cases remain under investigation.
"I think he's doing a great job on drugs and different things, and when money comes available, we'll definitely look into helping him," Lambert added.