Timpson City Council Continues Police Reduction Debate; Officers Future Unknown

Timpson citizens continue to attend meetings in support of keeping the 5-man police department.

January 21, 2015 - The Timpson City Council met on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 and although a budget was adopted by default at their previous meeting in November 2014, the debate once again continues as to whether two police officers will lose their jobs. The officers whose livelihoods hang in the balance include Robert Hairgrove, Thomas Jernigan, Michael Williams, and Jake Metcalf.

Items on the agenda receiving approval include:
Consent agenda items A through J with the exception of D.
•A. Minutes from the regular meeting of November 18, 2014.
•B. Minutes from the special meeting of November 24, 2014.
•C. Minutes of the special meeting of December 18, 2014.
•E. Financial statement for the month of November 2014.
•F. Ratification of accounts payable for the month of December 2014.
•G. Financial statement for the month of December 2014.
•H. Accounts payable for the month of January 2015.
•I. Invoice from Duplichain Contractors, dated January 12, 2015.
•J. Old Spanish Trail Ride to use So-So Park, February 21, 2015.
1.Item D renamed to 10A and item 12: Resolution 0120151A concerning the renovation of the affordable housing unit known as Timpson Senior Citizen located at 329 Marcus Street, Timpson, Texas contingent upon the approval of whether or not public funds can be funded in to this, by Mr. Bovey our attorney.
2.Certificate of Deposit No's 31414 ($279,504.82), 31414 and 31416 (both $35,573.32) at Texas State Bank will mature on 01/15/2015 renewal end date of 01/25/2015. TSB renewal rate for 24 mos. 0.75%.
3.Waiver of the 30 ft. distance between structures (Ord. 2014-03-18-02 Sect 4a) for a mobile home for Vicky Ann Mardis located on North 2nd Street.
4.Ordinance 01202015-01 adopting a drought contingency plan to comply with TCEQ.
5.Advertise and solicit bids for trimming and cutting down trees in electric line right-of-way on an area mapped by Tommy Sparks, lineman, having it submitted to the City of Timpson by February 13th including a detailed scope of the contractors work to be done in that area.
6.Take Matthew Owens off administrative leave contingent on passing all medical tests required by the city and for him to be placed on 90 days probation once the administrative leave ends.

Toward the end of the meeting, item 20 on the agenda was to discuss and possibly take action to amend the 2014-2015 budget, Ordinance 01202015-02. Contingent on any budgetary changes, the council was to then review and possibly take action on Resolution 01202015-1. This Resolution would allow overtime to be paid to the officers out of the Timpson Police Department Forfeiture Account. A previous resolution passed by the Timpson council in 2004 was then presented to the council during the meeting.

Ronnie Wolfe, councilman, stated he wanted to comment regarding the resolution of 2004, "I'd be willing to just rescind that resolution," stated Wolfe. Mayor Debra Pate Smith interjected, "We can't rescind that resolution because it has a whole bunch of things and they have to have it." Wolfe continued, "Okay, but I'm still going to say what I'm going to say. There's 168 hours in a week, we have a five man police department. The mayor told me that overtime starts at 42 hours." Mayor Smith interjected, "84 in every 14 day cycle." Wolfe once again continued, "If you divide 42 into 168 you get 4.4, I think, which means with a five man department there shouldn't be any overtime to pay. I rest my case."

Mayor Smith invited Chief Kent Graham to comment on overtime, "When we have shift change we have what we call information exchange for the shifts. Wolfe responded, "Maybe we need to stop that, because it's costing us money." Chief Graham continued, "Well the officers have to relay the things that have happened during their shift that's going to affect the [officer] that comes on. Vehicles issues, cases and some of the cases that they've been working they may happen at the end of their shift, they don't have a choice but to finish everything up before they get off. We're going to do what we can, do everything possible to minimize any overtime."

Mayor Smith inquired if there are enough funds in the forfeiture account to pay overtime. Wolfe asked why not just give comp time instead of overtime, and Mayor Smith asked when they would take that time if they are scheduled to work. Wolfe said someone would have to be scheduled to work on that time, and Smith said that would mean the officer covering the other officers work schedule would then have to be paid overtime.

Chief Graham confirmed there are funds in the forfeiture account to pay for minimal required overtime such as shift change, information exchange or transport of a prisoner to jail. Mayor Smith also stated, per the 2004 resolution, these funds may legally be used to pay salaries, wages and overtime.

Some changes have been made in relation to the budget which was presented to the council in November, "This was a fairly large change in the budget. The city of Timpson has been paying 5.69% into the retirement fund and effective January 21, 2015 it was lowered to 2.73%, almost a 3% decrease," said Smith. "That's about $15,000 that basically because it's not expended is added to the budget."

Councilman George Grace (pictured) displayed plaques of support and appreciation which were presented to the council by the Timpson Volunteer Fire Department.Although additional adjustments have been made to improve the budget, the council once again could not come to a decision on the budget for the city. Mayor Smith commented the city streets could not be improved while the city has a five man police department, nor could it afford improving city streets when the department was a three man department.

Councilman Wolfe commented on the streets in relation to the police department, "We can't afford it, we can't afford to have new streets all over town and just like we can't afford any longer to have a five man police department, people don't understand that."

Kyle Allen, councilman, made a motion to approve the newly presented budget alternative 1 which the council just reviewed that keeps the five man police force and has a positive balance on paper. The mayor entertained a motion to second, but none was heard from any council member and the motion failed.

Wolfe followed Allen's motion with a counter motion, "I would like to make a motion that we consult with our attorney concerning a RIF (Reduction in Force) in the Police Department, a reduction of force of the police department. Get him here and then have a special meeting as soon as you can correlate him being here and we have a special meeting, the dates. 'Cause I want to know from him how to go about doing this like it's supposed to be done."

The motion was seconded by Janell Baker, councilwoman, with Yvonne Ramsey, councilwoman, refraining from voting for or against the motion. The motion carried with approval from George Grace, Ronnie Wolfe and Janell Baker.

During the public comment portion of the meeting Cecil Parks, a Timpson resident, addressed the council about a civil issue between himself and Timpson ISD Police Chief Kim Graham, and Timpson Police Chief Kent Graham. The council listened to his story and his allegations concerning an incident at his residence on Bremond Street which took place on December 6, 2013. The Texas Rangers investigated the incident and stated "no criminal law violations were detected."