SALEM - Whether the police department moves an officer to full-time on the Columbiana County Drug Task Force or gets a part-time secretary will depend on the Finance Committee of City Council finding funding.
Both issues are being forwarded to the Finance Committee after the Traffic & Safety Committee discussed them Tuesday night.
The Traffic & Safety Committee agreed to recommend joining the Homicide Task Force made up of detectives from different departments in the county.
The committee also touched on the idea of a K-9 police unit, but took no action after Police Chief Bob Floor expressed his strong opposition, saying he would far rather see money spent for additional manpower. He said the department already has several K-9 units available if needed from other police agencies.
He also said there would be a great deal of cost involved for training, for acquiring a dog and for properly equipping a vehicle.
Most of the discussion dealt with how the city could place an officer on the DTF full-time, which would require the addition of a sergeant's position. Floor explained that the officer currently working part-time for the DTF is a sergeant. He would remain a sergeant, with the city responsible for his salary and benefits, which is how the DTF operates. Each entity pays their officer, but assigns them to the DTF.
With that sergeant gone, another sergeant would be needed for shift supervision and another officer hired to fill the vacated patrolman's position when someone moves up to the sergeant spot. He estimated the total cost at $75,000 to cover the new patrolman and the increase in pay for someone moving to a new sergeant position.
Floor was recommending that the current officer on the DTF move to the DTF full-time, noting that he has a proven track record as a DTF officer. As full-time DTF, he could put all his energy into that instead of getting pulled away a couple days a week for sergeant duties. He said there was an attempt previously to have an officer in charge instead of a sergeant on a shift and it didn't really work because an officer in charge didn't get the same respect as a sergeant from the other officers.
"We can't operate efficiently without a sergeant assigned to a shift," he said.
Councilman K. Bret Apple, a member of the Traffic & Safety Committee and chairman of the Finance Committee asked how creating that position would come into play with the union contract, but Floor said the city has the power to decide the number of sergeants.
He also asked about money secured through the DTF, but Floor said most of that money ends up going back into DTF operations for buy money and other needs. He said the city did recently receive a check for $1,000 from the DTF.
Mayor John Berlin said he supported the chief for a full-time DTF officer and recommended that council start looking at the finances now and not wait until next year for this.
The committee agreed to recommend council revise the position of police secretary to part-time for no more than 30 hours a week at the same pay and benefits as dispatchers. Dispatchers do not receive health insurance. They pay into their retirement and receive two paid personal days and they receive sick days.
The full-time secretary was laid off a few years ago and never brought back, with the duties relegated to Floor and administrative Lt. Don Beeson. Floor lobbied for at least a part-time secretary, noting the city's now having it's two highest paid officers doing secretarial work while trying to do their police duties. He said the department runs more efficiently with a secretary.
Traffic & Safety Committee Chairman Brian Whitehill said funding of the position would fall to the Finance Committee. He asked the chief what he would prefer if the funding comes down to a choice between a secretary and a full-time officer on the DTF.
Floor compared it to asking which limb he wants to lose, his arm or his leg, but he said if looking at it from a standpoint of what's best for the city, he said the DTF would come first.
A meeting of the Finance Committee will be scheduled to discuss funding for the two positions.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org