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Halifax Town Council calls out cell phone usage on town-paid devices

Cell phone usage will be placed on the agenda of the next Halifax Town Council meeting after current affairs committee members agreed official action is needed.

Committee members met in a special called work session Wednesday morning at Halifax Town Hall.

Councilmen discussed parameters of the current cell phone usage policy the town has been following and came to an consensus they wanted to put it on the agenda to be adopted officially.

Currently, the town manager has a cell phone, one cell phone is used in the sanitation department, and four lines are available for the police department to be used only by those officers on duty.

According to Assistant Town Manager Denise Barksdale, the town currently has a U. S. Cellular contract that allows them to have these lines at a discounted price.

The policy states the phones are to only be used for business purposes, and Barksdale said she checks the bills to make sure the officers are only using the phones when they are duty.

Councilman Bill Confroy questioned the need for a landline, and council asked Town Manager Carl Espy to look into what should be done about land phone lines and bring a recommendation back to the full council.

Espy suggested maybe cutting one of the administrative phone lines to save the town money.

Council also discussed the town’s travel expense policy. Currently no reference to mileage can be found in the town’s travel expense policy, but by consensus council agreed to add reference to that into town policy.

At the present time, the town reimburses employees for mileage based on IRS code, according to town officials.

The town has one credit card the town manger and the assistant town manager use.  Also administration uses a bankcard to make hotel reservations for council.

Other employees must pay for their traveling expenses out of their own pocket and are reimbursed later on, town officials explained.

Also the town’s existing car policy came under scrutiny of council members Wednesday morning.

Councilman Jack Dunavant said he did not agree with officers taking home cars when they live more than 25 miles away from town.

Confroy said officers living in the county should be able to take their car home and there should be a limit on how far they could drive. He suggested charging for mileage outside the limits.

Dunavant disagreed saying only one police car should be available to driven by officers and only when they are duty.

Officers should be responsible for getting themselves to and from work, he maintained.

Since only one officer is on duty at a time, only one car is necessary, according to Dunavant.

Confroy brought to Dunavant’s attention that an instance could occur requiring the need for more than one police officer, and Councilman Thomas Brown asked Dunavant what did he propose the officers drive while on duty.

Dunavant responded they could drive their own vehicles.

Espy said the challenge with a community vehicle is the wear and tear.

If the town has three police officers, they need three cars, the town manager maintained.

Espy said Acting Chief David Irby had offered recommendations on this issue and suggested councilmen hear him out before making a decision.

Also on Wednesday morning, each council member aired concerns about the police department and what they would like police officers to accomplish.

Mayor Dick Moore said police should work eight to 10-hour shifts and work a total of 40 hour a week.

Espy explained police officers continue to work 12-hour shifts but with the new part time position that should change.

Moore also said council needs to decide what it is going to do in regards to restructuring the police department before the end of the fiscal year.

Confroy said on the contrary. Council has from now until June 30 to decide, he said.  He added compensatory time should be studied further, and if an officer is working overtime that officer should be paid overtime and not compensatory time.

Dunavant said he wants to look into having an auxiliary police force. He also said council should see what kind of package they could get by contracting with the sheriff’’s department and then decide whether they want to keep a police department.

Confroy disagreed saying he didn’t think it served the town to contract with other law enforcement agencies.

Confroy said citizens of the town have made it clear to him they want their own police force.

The mayor said he feels Halifax needs its own police department, and if they contract with the sheriff’s department they would lose control in that area.

Council members decided to try and arrive at a consensus on this issue at their next meeting.

As the discussion wrapped up Wednesday morning, the town manager told council  he would probably not advertise for the vacant part-time positions in the police department.

Instead he plans to “probably use” two deputies who have helped to fill coverage gaps in the past.

Espy said he is working with Acting Chief Irby to coordinate that situation.