Stanford mayor proposes cutbacks for police

November 07, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Mayor Eddie Carter asked City Council members and Police Chief Keith Middleton Thursday night to look closely at the city's waistline, and tighten it's budget-belt one more time.

The Stanford Police Department would feel the squeeze immediately if Carter's recommendations to reduce the force by one officer and move the department into the fire station are approved at the next council meeting.

"In our financial situation in the city, and after talking it over with him (Middleton), we've decided not to rehire another officer ... and see how it goes," said Carter. "We have two state police officers living in city limits, and one at the edge of town, and I feel that they would help us."

Carter offered the recommendation to the council for consideration only. No action will be taken until the next meeting. Carter said something had to be done to cut insurance and employee costs to the city and suggested a smaller force was the answer.


The force lost two officers this month when Mike Correll moved to Somerset and Kenny McDaniel became the new fire chief. If approved, Carter would hire one officer for the two vacant positions, bringing the force down to a seven men.

Middleton stood before the council Thursday night to debate the issue for almost an hour.

"I've discussed it with the officers and their thoughts are this; if it's going to help us keep our benefits, then we'll pick up the slack. It's been six years since we've been at a seven-man force. Some nights it will be easy, some nights it won't," said Middleton.

"First of all, when you cut people you are going to cut coverage. My fear is, you'll have individuals working alone. If something goes wrong, it's a difference of having an officer at your side in three minutes or 20," Middleton told the council.

Stanford police officer Paul Blanton said one less officer would not affect the hours of police coverage in the city.

"We still have 24-hour coverage, so it's not affecting whether or not there's an officer on duty," said Blanton.

Six city jobs have been cut so far

The measure stems in part from rising employee insurance costs. Carter said since his election last year, he has saved the city $76,000 on insurance and has cut six jobs in an effort to improve the city's struggling bottom line.

Middleton said the cuts, if approved, would be dealt with but the force was concerned with putting themselves on the budget chopping block as the city sent funding elsewhere.

"I think you take care of your people first," said Middleton. "I don't think you make all these improvements. You don't go out and build parks. You take care of your people first."

Middleton also voiced concern that a possible reduction of benefits would cripple the city's ability to attract and keep a quality force.

"The problem I am seeing is this, we are advertising for officers. Without it (guaranteed insurance benefits) we don't have the ability to recruit. We don't have the ability to keep the good officers we have, and I can't recruit anybody with what I don't know we'll get," said Middleton.

Councilman Steve Lucas said, while he didn't have the answers to the insurance woes, he thought the mayor needed to get insurance quotes and sit down with Middleton and the council to discuss possible solutions, before the current policy comes due on Jan. 31.

"We need to come up with some kind of solution, because we will never be able to afford insurance. We will never be able to afford it," said Lucas.

One additional solution Carter offered was to sell the 200-year old police station and move the department into rooms at the fire station. The house was purchased three years ago for $70,000. Council members estimated the cost to have depreciated since it's purchase.

"If they put that money in insurance, I don't care where they put us, they can put us in our cars," said Middleton, with humor.

Fire Chief Kenny McDaniel, former Stanford police officer, said the volunteers at the station had voiced their concerns about living with the force, for unspecified reasons.

"The volunteers are very disgruntled. They don't want the police over there," said McDaniel.

"I don't want to intrude on their space, but economically, it's a good idea," said Middleton.

Whether or not the move takes place depends on the vote of City Council members next month. Middleton said he would honor the decision of the council regarding the move or the smaller police force, but urged them to carefully consider where, exactly, budget cuts have regularly fallen and support the city's dedicated police officers.

"Yes, we will survive. Yes, there will be some changes in schedules," said Middleton. "We will take up the slack where the slack is needed."

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