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Part-timers to help fill gap in Halifax Police Department

A pair of part-time police officers is headed to Halifax to fill vacant positions in the town. Following a regular council meeting Tuesday night and a special called meeting Wednesday morning, council directed Town Manager Carl Espy to start the hiring process for two part-time officers who will begin work immediately.

Mayor Dick Moore appointed Lt. D. D. Irby to act as interim officer in charge of the department until council decides which direction it plans to take with the police department.

When council met Wednesday morning, a consensus was reached to spend the next few months reviewing town code and familiarizing itself with existing personnel policies.

Council desires to move slow and take its time in deciding exactly how they want to restructure the police department and agreed advertisement for a police chief is not necessary at this time.

Council members were informed the department has $5,735.97 remaining in the police budget to operate on through June 30 when the fiscal year ends. Money had been budgeted for a four-officer police department through the end of the year, they were told Tuesday night.

While council further studies its options, Espy was instructed to hire two part-time officers to fill the fourth budgeted position through June.

During the Wednesday morning special called meeting, Confroy gave each council member an opportunity to express opinions on how they believe the town should move forward with the police force.

Councilman Tom Brown favors having four police officers on duty.

“I think we owe it to the town to move. We need to take some steps forward if not immediately but soon,” Brown said.

He said council should look over the town charter, code and policies, but they should take some type of action to move forward.

Confroy said if council can’t come to a consensus, the decision should be left up to the town’s citizens to decide whether or not they want a police department.

He also said they should work and contract with the sheriff’s department and emphasized research is needed into the town code and policies to see what the town can and cannot do as far as the police department is concerned.

Councilman Jack Dunavant said the police department has been a problem in one form or another “since day one.”

Dunavant agreed council should study the town’s policies and then make a decision on which way that want to go.

Council should explore every avenue available, according to Dunavant who said he wanted to keep a three-man police force until they finish their study.

He also suggested council explore the possibility of having an auxiliary police department.

Councilman Holt Evan agreed with Dunavant and Confroy saying the town needs to hold off on filling a fourth position until council members figure out exactly what they’re going to do.

Mayor Moore said he felt they needed to give the town a “good police force” providing people the coverage they told them they would provide.

He said he had no objection to having four police officers and no objection to having three police officers and two part-time officers.

The mayor said his biggest hang up with the police department since he’s been on council has been the scheduling. Moore believes officers should work an eight to 10-hour shift instead of 12-hour shifts.

Also the mayor suggested putting outstanding liabilities for benefits, vacations and comp time on the budget to be reviewed on a monthly basis.

At the Tuesday night meeting, council heard comments from four town residents concerned with the future of the police department.

Frank Booker told council he was in favor of keeping police department as is, further stating “it is not redundant.”

He told council many women work in businesses within the town limits and deserve police protection.

“Though I can’t prove it, it seems to me we have relatively peaceful town because of our police department. Its obvious to me that boots on the ground and patrol cars in our neighborhood serve as a deterrent,” Booker said.

Thomas Majors, a resident of Golf Course Road, told council that the police department has made it a lot safer on Golf Course Road.

When he first moved into his home on Golf Course Road Mayor Osborne told him the benefits he would receive from his taxes would be police protection and water and sewage.

He agreed police protection had been a benefit of living in the town limits.

The Rev. Frank Carr, who lives in the northern section of the town, said the town needs “at least four officers.”

He urged council not to decrease the police force and if anything they need to increase it.

Thelma Edmonds expressed her concern that older town residents especially rely on police protection and asked the council to maintain the police department.

Council agreed to hold another special called meeting next Wednesday at 9 a.m. to further discuss police department options and to review the charter, code and policies related to the police force.

In other action Wednesday morning, Halifax Town Council approved the advertisement for an events coordinator. The position is open following the recent resignation of Erin Shaughnessy.

Confroy told council he was unaware Shaughnessy had resigned from the position.

The town manager apologized to council that he hadn’t informed council about Shauhgnessy’s decision until the Feb. 8 work session. He explained it was sudden for him as well and that Shaughgnessy first approached him on Feb. 3 to discuss her resignation.

Council suggested presenting Shaughnessy with a resolution thanking her for her dedication to the town while holding the position of events coordinator.

At the Feb. 8 work session, council discussed whether the position should be paid or volunteer.

A majority of council said at that time it would be best for the position be a paid position.

At its Tuesday night meeting, council reviewed the job advertisement and description but tabled any action until Wednesday morning’s special call meeting.

Council is seeking an events coordinator who will be able to plan, coordinate and implement a minimum of four annual events including Friday Night Jams in the summer, an Earth day Extravaganza in the spring and River Fest in the fall. They hope the coordinator also will be able to help produce an event for the winter also.

In other action during Tuesday night’s meeting, Town Manager Espy updated council on the status of the November 2012 municipal election and special election pre-clearance approval.

Espy explained the General Assembly has changed the charter allowing municipal elections to take place in November instead of May, and the town is sending a petition to the circuit court requesting a special election for the position currently held by Terrie Lantor to be held on that same day.

Lantor was appointed to fill the position left vacant when former Councilman Tommy Reagan resigned.