First Posted: 3/19/2009
Mount Airy officials took action Thursday night which could lead to a resource officer returning to the citys middle school.
The city board of commissioners voted unanimously to apply for a $500,312 grant through a COPS program that is delegating funds to law enforcement agencies using federal stimulus money.
If successful, the grant would pay the entry-level salary of four police officers for three years, with the municipality required to pick up the tab for a fourth year. In addition to the SRO at Mount Airy Middle School which lost its resource officer last year due to the state budget crunch the slots targeted include a vacant position in the city Criminal Investigation Division and two patrolmen openings.
These would not be new positions, but ones that earlier were budgeted for which have been left vacant due to the economic situation that prompted a hiring freeze.
Commissioners said they think applying for the federal assistance is the thing to do in the interest of public safety.
I think its so important to keep our citizens safe, said Commissioner Deborah Cochran. She held up recent front pages of The Mount Airy News to illustrate the crime volume in the city. They included coverage of such incidents as armed robberies, meth lab investigations, rashes of larcenies and embezzlement.
Cochran added that two high-ranking officials in the police department told her that this past January and February were the two busiest months ever for city law enforcement.
Commissioner Jon Cawley also voiced support for the grant application.
We can either pay more for SRO officers or things like jails and prisons, he said.
Cawley, who has been a critic of the stimulus package, said later of the federal funds in general, I think it might doom us all in the future. But if theyre trying to give money away, we need to be in line to take it.
The police department is also applying for a separate grant of about $34,000 that would supply seven tasers and money for undercover drug investigations.
At the end of Thursday nights meeting, the city council elected to move into a closed session one not listed on the official agenda for the meeting.
The session behind closed doors presumably was held to discuss the contract situation with City Manager Don Brookshire. His present employment agreement expires at the end of this month.
A golden parachute provision is contained in that contract that has been criticized as overly lucrative for a city the size of Mount Airy.
City Attorney Hugh Campbell said that the board needed to have a brief closed session to discuss a personnel matter, with no action planned afterward.
Campbell confirmed that the board would be required to take a formal vote on any new contract, which will be public record.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.