Bourbon approves plan to hire fifth police officer

BOURBON — An ongoing issue of police staffing was settled last Tuesday at the regular meeting of the Bourbon Town Council. A recent resignation had prompted a consideration of whether or not to replace the full-time officer in the five-person department.
In recent meetings, Council members had mixed feelings due to budget considerations. While money is available now, it was not clear if financing would be adequate in the future. Police Chief Bill Martin had clearly advised Council members of the pros and cons of various ways of organizing shifts. He said that a four-officer force would have to work 12-hour shifts. That would not account for necessary vacation and sick coverage. One possibility is to use part-time officers (usually off-duty members of another department’s force). That is not always controllable, Martin indicated, because their primary loyalty is to their full-time employment. Another option is to fill in with police reserves, which the Bourbon department is currently beginning to train. These five individuals will not be ready to patrol by themselves for several weeks, and again, their primary loyalty would be to their employers, since their reserve service is voluntary.
At its May meeting, the Council instructed Martin to test the 12-hour shift model. He reported that after a month of usage, the force had adequately maintained 24-hour coverage. He indicated that the officers were tired, however, and repeated the concern that vacation and sick days were not covered.
Mark Wagner, town attorney, said that he felt the 12-hour shift model was not workable in the long run. He said the Council had two options: hire a fifth officer or reduce 24-hour coverage. The latter would involve three to four hours per day without coverage on an unpredictable rotation.
Terry Clemens, owner of Deaton-Clemens Funeral Home in Bourbon and a former Bourbon police officer, appeared before the Council to express his support for hiring the fifth full-time officer. From his former experience, he indicated that the 12-hour shift and part-time fill-in does not work.
As a business owner, he strongly supported full 24-hour coverage. “Calling county police patrols in for an incident does not work,” he said. “They cannot arrive in time.”
After a full and free discussion of all issues involved, the Council voted unanimously to hire the fifth full-time officer.
In other business:
• Mike Knootz, owner of Journey’s End tavern, expressed concern over a new ruling by state inspectors that the bar location in his business would prevent families with underage children from eating in the family room. He asked for the Council’s support at a meeting scheduled for June 18 with State Rep. Tim Harman.
• In contract allocations, a bid to reroof the Town Hall building over the Police Department with steel shingles from Horizon Enterprises was approved in the amount of $16,106.27, to be paid from the CCD fund.
• Street repair projects were discussed and passed. Niblock (the same company that is contracted for paving work at Triton schools) received the contract for paving parts of Lincoln Street, Pansy Court, East Jackson Street and Ecker Street for $30,364.70. Slurry seal application on Lincoln Street, Harris Street, and Shaffer Road was approved for $5,589.
• In zoning and code enforcement, Bill Keyser reported that the building located at Center Street and State Road 331 downtown still had not seen progress on required repairs. The Council ordered him to advise the owner that by July 8, work must be started or a letter or contract must be shown indicating that the work is scheduled.
• The Street Department was authorized to purchase a new leaf vacuum machine in time for fall leaf pick-up. Cost of this unit is $17,775, the majority of which is available in the department’s current budget.
• In miscellaneous business, Clerk-Treasurer Kim Berger requested that ordinance 2010-2 be amended to say that if a reservation made for the Matchett Center is canceled, there will be a $50 cancellation fee. This was passed unanimously.
• Habitat for Humanity requested that the property it recently received from the town have its monthly base rate fee waived. Council voted to waive the fee for six months or until occupied.
• Chief Martin requested an opinion of law from Wagner as to whether police personnel could set foot on private property to facilitate the towing of junk vehicles as per town ordinance. Wagner said that such action was acceptable in the course of carrying out their duties and enforcing the law.
• Berger said that she was preparing the 2014 budget to present to the Council and asked for any input. Council member P.J. Hanley raised the issue of a defibrillator being purchased for the park building. The Council instructed Berger to add a line purchasing this plus a second unit for the Matchett Center.