Council considers grants to fund police officer, other projects

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By Sharon Graves

The News-Democrat

Regardless of the question in Carrollton City Council meeting Monday night, the answer was grant money.

City leaders indicated that topics such as hiring another police officer, obtaining new playground equipment, upgrading the 911 system, and providing summer jobs could all be addressed with grant money.

Council member Dean Miller Jr. broached the topic of a grant available that could pay the salary for a police officer for three years, if the city agrees to keep them on staff for one additional year.

Mayor Dwight Louden explained that the city has done this in the past but was reluctant to fire the officer after four years.

Carrollton Police Chief Mike Willhoite said he would like to get an officer for free for three years. “They are very marketable after four years, and the chances we won’t lose an officer in the next four years is very slim,” he said after the meeting.

Council members did agree that the officer would be able to seek employment someplace else with the skills and experience they had gained working with CPD, if the position had to be eliminated after the four years.

No action was taken on seeking the grant for the police officer position.

 Willhoite also said that his department is currently seeking renewal of Traffic Alcohol Program and Justice Assistance Grants. The TAP grant pays for overtime for officers working to control drinking and driving. The JAG money would be used for a new program to safely and legally dispose of outdated pharmaceuticals.

Matthew Simons came before the council with pictures of the deterioration of William J. Welty Park on Eighth Street requesting that it be addressed. Simons stated that equipment such as the merry-go-round is a source of violent behavior when older kids use it seeing how fast they can go, to the possible detriment of younger children.

Simons said that the monkey bars are dangerous and his nine year-old son has been hurt playing there. He also said the swings are so close to bushes and a fence that children brush up against them while swinging.

He asked that the merry-go-round be taken out, the swings moved forward and a new piece of equipment be purchased.

“Is there grant money out there for that,” council member Mike Gordon asked.

Miller asked if there is any of the crumb rubber left from Point Park and public works supervisor Ron Knight said there might be some.  “Crumb rubber would be a quick fix to make it look better and safer,” Miller said referencing the danger of falling off the monkey bars.

The council agreed to look into finding some grant money for the park and to improving conditions there.

Joan Moore, executive director of the Carroll County Community Development Corp., reported that since she and Fire Chief Randy Tharp had been so successful in attaining a grant for more than $101,000 for new equipment, they were going to team up for two smaller grants to upgrade the 911 system.

The two grants requested total $28,730 and would provide new mapping software and a data recorder with instant playback capability,  Moore said.  The grant request is due in June and they should be notified in August if they will receive the grant, she said in a phone interview following the meeting.

Tharp said he is currently in the process of purchasing equipment with the grant money his department recently received.

Carrollton will also be participating in the summer jobs program as other county and state agencies in the area.  The jobs are for Carroll County residents, 16-24 years of age and are minimum wage positions that may be used for general clean-up and other types of work. Applications can be picked up at Judge Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson’s office in the Highland Avenue courthouse or at Jefferson Community and Technical College in the third floor JAG office. They are due back May 1. Funding for the program comes from the federal stimulus package.

The city opened three bids for a sidewalk project with Brasch-Barry General Contractors having the lowest bid of $48,923.20. There was less than $185 difference between the next lowest bid by Bimp’s Concrete Construction, who has had the last several contracts.  The city accepted the Brasch-Barry bid with the work to be completed by June 23, according to David Mefford of Brasch-Barry.

The city is looking into changing its cell phone policy after receiving several requests from police officers. Assistant city clerk Susie McGee explained that police officers and all city employees that have city owned cell phones must keep track of all personal calls made on them.  Because those calls are considered a fringe benefit, they must pay taxes on the calls.

McGee said that at the end of the year some officers have had to pay several hundred dollars in taxes on the phone calls. She then explained that if the city pays employees a stipend of $25 or $30 there would be much less paperwork and no further taxes for employees.

The council asked city attorney Nick Marsh to draw up an ordinance that would change the policy and allow for the stipend. Council will decide on the exact amount of the stipend at a future meeting.