Maplesville council discusses smaller police department

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A good portion of Maplesville’s council meeting Tuesday was spent discussing how the decision to eliminate a full-time police officer was affecting the department.

The council voted at its July meeting to cut the department from five officers (counting Police Chief Todd Ingram) to four.

The issue came up, in part, because the department had to pay several officers overtime and bring in part-time officers the last two weeks to staff the department when officers were out, including Ingram, who attended a police chief’s conference last week.

“I think it’s ludicrous to fire a man, and then ask him to come into work,” said Councilman Mike Bearden, in reference to Officer Jerry Hood.

Bearden voted against cutting the position in July, along with Michael Abbott.

“I feel like it was a mistake getting rid of the officer,” said Abbott.

John Caudle said no one on the council wanted to eliminate the position, but it became a matter of whether the town could afford it.

Mayor Aubrey Latham said the town would review the matter as it works on next year’s budget to see if the fifth officer could be brought back, but couldn’t guarantee that.

“(We need to) look at what we spent and just see what we can and can’t do,” Latham said.

The town’s revenue is running about $30,000 behind projections. That deficit more than doubled when town leaders learned earlier this summer that a tax abatement given to South Coast Paper hadn’t been taken due to a clerical error the company was making.

Now that proper paperwork has been filed, the abatement means the town’s ad valorem, or property, taxes will take an unexpected $32,000 hit each year for the next six years.

“The best we can hope for is to break even (for this budget year, which ends in September)” Latham said.

In other business, the council took the following actions:

•Greenlighted the Maplesville Park Board’s request to look into a $50,000 grant to build a playground at Maplesville Community Park. Board President Kurt Wallace said the grant, if given, requires a 50-percent match, which would be paid through donations, fundraisers and park board funds.

•Agreed to apply for a grant given by the Alabama Historical Commission. The grant, which requires no match, would be for $25,000 and would be used to renovate buildings within the town’s historic district.

•New terms for officers with the Maplesville Fire Department will start Sept. 1. Elected to two-year terms were Fire Chief Michael Abbott, Assistant Chief Michael Drury and Assistant EMS Chief Christine Epperson. Former assistant chief JaMelv Morrow has moved to Montgomery and resigned from the department. Drury will fill his position between now and Sept. 1.

•Donated $800 to Child Protect, an agency that works with abused children in the court system.

•Town Clerk Sheila Haigler announced the monthly cost of health insurance through United Healthcare for town employees would actually decrease this next year — about 35 cents for individuals and a dollar for those on a family plan.

•Voted to put push bar guards on three of the town’s patrol cars for approximately $600. Patrol cars have hit three deer recently causing minor damage. Latham said the guards would lessen impacts: “They are worth their money.”

•Proceeded with an application to have the walking trail at Maplesville Community Park added to the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail. The program doesn’t cost the city anything and includes trails throughout the state.

•Purchased a fourth of a page ad in The Clanton Advertiser’s Kickoff Football Magazine for $275.

•Agreed to pay Hull and Russell, P.C. $10,965 for the town’s annual audit.