First Posted: 6/2/2009
Mount Airy officials are expected to approve an expansion of the city police auxiliary unit at a meeting this week, partly to take advantage of a grant being sought to fund four officer positions.
The auxiliary force now contains five volunteers, and the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners will be asked to increase that to seven during a meeting Thursday at 7 p.m.
Auxiliary officers, who serve without compensation and use existing equipment, are a valuable asset to the Mount Airy Police Department, officials say. They provide security and other functions that take the load off paid officers and help offset overtime costs of the department.
The program allows the city to offer highly qualified graduates of Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) a position and a way to gain practical experience even if no full-time jobs are available on the force. Auxiliary officers provide eight hours of service to Mount Airy each month, which provides participants with insights into pursuing a law enforcement career that can prevent costs from employee turnover in the long run.
This weeks proposal to expand the auxiliary unit from five to seven members coincides with an exceptionally strong class of BLET students at Surry Community College, according to board documents.
We have just completed interviews and see six strong candidates, according to Police Chief Roger McCreary.
Another timing-related factor surrounds an application Mount Airy has submitted for a $500,312 grant through a COPS program that involves federal stimulus funds.
If successful, the grant would pay the entry-level salary of four police officers for three years, which represent existing positions that are now unfilled.
The department expects to be notified by September as to whether it will receive the grant or a portion of the funding.
Should these positions be funded through COPS, according to City Manager Don Brookshire, it will be imperative that we move quickly to fill (them). The use of the auxiliary program allows us to follow this pace.
The police chief said that in addition to the need for having qualified applicants standing by to fill the positions now open, retirements are pending in the department which will further increase the applicant need.
In other business Thursday night, the commissioners are expected to vote to rezone property on Carter Street to accommodate a planned center for homeless families.
The National Coalition for Homeless Americans based in Rural Hall is seeking to convert classrooms at Mount Airy Church of God at 1313 Carter St. into housing units for about 120 homeless individuals.
That site now is zoned B-4, or highway business, which is a heavily commercial designation. The Mount Airy Planning Board has recommended changing that to B-2 (general business), a zoning classification that permits homeless shelters.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.