Council accepts $75,000 grant to hire new police officer
Town Councilors agreed Monday to accept a $75,000 federal grant to hire another police offi- cer, as originally awarded in 2004. The addition will enable the police department to have 15 full-time members.
The grant has been on hold since first approved, mainly because of budgeting considerations. This is the second time the funds were approved, with the first grant turned back because of budget decisions. The department was able to hold its place for the grant through several extensions until now.
If not used, this second grant was due to expire at the end of this month. Police Chief Thomas Tighe and Councilman William Kelly cautioned that failure to accept this grant could lead to a diminished ability to get grant money in the future. "We cannot continue to apply for these funds if we are not going to use them," Tighe wrote in his letter to the council about receiving a final reminder that the grant was due to expire.
The funds will be provided over four years by the U.S. Department of Justice through its Universal Hiring Grant program. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser urged the council to approve the grant because it will cut down on overtime needs, and enable better coverage so no shift has only one officer on duty at any time. This means increased safety for both citizens and police officers. He also cited statistics that contend that the town should have at least 18 full-time officers, and the town "is well below standards."
The grant provides 75 percent for salary and benefits for a new patrol officer in the first year, 50 percent in the second year, and 25 percent in the third year, with the town required to keep the officer for at least one year after the grant ends.
"After the fourth year, the need should be reevaluated and a determination made to continue full local funding. Any decision at that time to eliminate the position could be made by attrition," Keiser suggested.
He noted that the new position will also provide greater flexibility to assign personnel to the department's new patrol boat.
Councilor Barbara Szepatowski noted that the added staff was well justified and deserved. Councilman Michael Schnack said that he was not opposed to the grant, but he questioned the validity of the generic statistics based on population being applicable to Jamestown.
When the department requested the added officer in 2004, offi- cers staged a major presentation to the council to explain the need, and how the statistics applied to the island.
Police Chief Tighe reported that the town is sending two candidates to the Municipal Police Academy in March, and they will fill vacancies from a resignation and retirement. "This would be the ideal time to use this grant to send a third candidate to the academy," he said. The new officers will be ready for duty at the beginning of the summer, he added.