Posted 3/29/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The Tioga police department is down from seven officers to four.
Faced with falling tax revenue and a loss of payments on its industrial water sales, the city doesn’t have any plans to fill the positions.
As a result, the city’s police officers are working per month 40 to 64 hours overtime among the four of them.
And with only four officers, any sick or vacation time for one officer has to be covered by the other three.
“We’re going to burn out our officers on overtime,” said Police Commissioner Ronda Davidson, speaking at last week’s commission meeting.
Police Administrator Jeff Spivey said demands on the police department have not been reduced as a result of the slowdown in the area.
“Our drug influx has not stopped . . . The drugs are still here. They’re coming in more now. People don’t have jobs, and they’re turning to crime,” Spivey told the commission.
He proposed using part-time officers from other agencies. These would be paid the entry-level wage of $21 per hour.
This would save approximately $15 to $20 per hour on the overtime for full-time officers.
“Then we don’t have to pay benefits,” Spivey explained.
These officers would be fully licensed and would be providing the patrol services to Tioga with their supervisor’s permission.
“I have some interested folks,” Spivey said.
Commissioner Heather Weflen asked about the potential of utilizing the city’s volunteer reserve officers to help ease the overtime burden.
Spivey said the reserve officers are being utilized as much as possible, and the department is grateful for their help. But they can only provide backup to patrol officers and support tasks to the department. The reservists cannot patrol the town alone.
“A full-time officer needs to be on duty at all times,” Spivey said.
The department does have a school resource officer whose position is supported with a grant. The terms of the grant do not allow for her to be placed full-time on patrol.
Mayor Drake McClelland said meetings he’s having over the next two weeks following the commission meeting will possibly provide other options to the problem. He didn’t specify what the options would be but asked the commission to table any decision on the issue of part-time officers until he has time to gather more information on these options.
The commission agreed to table it and will take up the matter at the next meeting on April 4.