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Citizens voice concerns with police department

By EASON FRANKLIN
The Lowndes Signal

Some local Lowndes County citizens may soon be personally contributing to assist the funding of one community’s police department.

In a recent town meeting, Geraldine Grant voiced her concern over the availability of police officers during regular school hours.

“We spoke to the mayor and had concerns that the chief is at the school from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.,” said Grant. “Though the agreement was made with the school, it is still a concern that if something happens during that time we are left unguarded.”

The town of Mosses is under contract with the Lowndes County Board of Education (LCBOE) to have an officer monitor the halls of Central High School from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The program was adopted under former Mosses Police Chief Jimmy Harris, whose termination the town council has yet to accept.

“We would like to have an officer here as soon as possible for our businesses and our homes,” added Grant.Steele said that he had been getting paid less than what was stated in the contract between the town of Mosses and the LCBOE.

“If my body were to shut down by working these hours, I don’t have the health or life insurance to remedy that,” said Steele.

Mayor Walter Hill responded by saying the salary paid to Steele is on a different pay schedule than that of the LCBOE.

The town of Mosses would receive the check from the LCBOE and then in turn compensate Steele for hours worked, however has not done so pending the approval of the contract by the town council Aug. 31, according to Hill.

“When the contract was negotiated, the thinking was the chief would still be compensated as chief in addition to time worked at the school,” said Hill. “What came into question was how to monitor that.”Steele also commented that he has had trouble hiring additional police officers due to stipulations set by Hill.

Steele commented that he “works about 45 hours a week” and the mayor has asked him “to patrol the town several hours in the evening.”

Hill responded by saying he, on behalf of the town, must make sure that potential officers have received the proper training and have all paperwork filed to ensure the town does not find itself liable for issues arising with officers who have not been properly researched.

“I have to get those papers for insurance purposes due to past officers and chiefs,” said Hill. “We have to get a plan in place to work for the greater good.”

Councilman Willie Hill stated the council members have to review what money is available in the town’s budget and the cost of hiring an officer.

“Sometimes you rob Peter to pay Paul and sometimes Peter is going to want his money back,” said Councilman Hill. “There is a problem right now and we need to sit down at the table and work it out.”

Resident Willie George Wilson addressed the town council if it would be reasonable for the citizens of the community to take up a collection of money to help pay the weekly salary of an officer.

“I would pay just as much weekly until the town can get some more money to hire a new officer,” said Wilson.

Mayor Hill stated he and the town council are meeting to balance the town’s budget for the remainder of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

“It would be acceptable to make those donations to the police department and it would be utilized,” said Mayor Hill. “Though, it still only remedies us for the time that carries us to the end of the fiscal year.”

The intent of the town of Mosses is to hire an additional officer within the next one to two weeks, according to Mayor Hill.

Addressing the topic of donations from the local citizenship, Mayor Hill stated, “any money that is contributed or donated to the police department would go into the police department account.”

“It would be acceptable and help offset the cost of department expenses beyond what is allocated in its general operating budget,” said Mayor Hill.

Mayor Hill added any persons contributing or donating funds to the police department would be given a receipt at their request.

The next Mosses town meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.