Council to look at hiring part-time cops

The addition of part-time police officers will be discussed during a council committee meeting at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Feb. 11, in council chambers.

“The idea is we need to continue putting resources into law enforcement when we can responsibly do so,” Councilman Brian Whitehill said.

Whitehill chairs the Traffic & Safety Committee and asked for a joint meeting of his committee and the Finance Committee to talk about formalizing the idea that’s been discussed previously by Police Chief J.T. Panezott, Mayor John Berlin, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst and council members.

He announced the meeting during Tuesday’s council session. The topic last came up in November during budget discussions, with Panezott saying he had spoken to the police union about the idea of using part-timers to help out and the union had no issues with it.

Whitehill said they’ll need to talk about how many part-time officers to add and how the finances will work to cover the cost. He said he was pleased with the recent annual report released by Panezott and wants to give him the tools to keep moving forward.

Adding part-time officers can help reduce overtime and comp time and give the full-time officers the down time they need to recharge instead of having to cover other shifts when there are call-offs or vacations.

That meeting will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by a Rules & Ordinances Committee meeting to discuss the rejection of a proposed ordinance dealing with the plot diagram requirements for structures being built and the changes proposed by the city Planning Commission.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Salem resident Geoffrey Johnson spoke out against the use of fluoride in public water supplies, asking that the city remove fluoride from the city drinking water as a matter of public safety.

Johnson briefly addressed council about his concerns with fluoride and said it has no benefits inside the body. He said a buildup of fluoride can lead to a number of health issues.

After the meeting, Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the city can’t remove the fluoride due to mandated state regulations which require a certain level of fluoride in the water supply. The Ohio Revised Code outlines the requirement.

Council President K. Bret Apple suggested that Johnson speak with Weingart, while Whitehill suggested he voice his concerns to the city Utilities Commission, which is set to meet next Tuesday.

In other business, Councilman Dave Nestic reported about the latest meeting of the Economic Development Committee concerning designating the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center as the city’s partner for economic development, using money set aside in city council’s budget. He said the scope of work is still being formulated.

Council agreed to commit up to $52,000 from capital improvements to cover the cost of new lighting along the Dean Cranmer bridge overpass on West State Street as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s bridge renovation project, based on the Finance Committee’s recommendation. The project is slated for 2015, but ODOT needed an answer from the city regarding the lights before March. ODOT will cover the cost of the bridge renovation, with the exception of the lights, which are the city’s responsibility.

Council also gave permission for Kenst to advertise for bids for the sale of the fire department’s used 1990 Sutphen 75-foot ladder truck. The city has plans to purchase a new platform ladder truck with a 102-foot ladder.

In the thanks department, council expressed its appreciation to the Columbiana County Commissioners for their donation of $20,000 to defray the cost of a city police officer assigned to the county Drug Task Force. The city has one officer assigned full-time to the DTF and another officer assigned full-time to the Drug Enforcement Administration in Youngstown.

Council also offered appreciation and accepted a donation of $319.25 from the Salem First Presbyterian Church for the city police department for the purchase of NIK drug test kits and other items needed to help combat drug use and trafficking in the city.