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Molena may vote to keep or drop police department

By Dwain W. Penn After a very eventful 2014 for the Molena police department with it being dissolved and reconstituted within weeks and later experiencing legal problems for police chief Roberts which disqualified him from serving in law enforcement, several members of council broached the subject of the department’s future at the April 13 meeting. A referendum will be on the city ballot in November if an application deadline is met. ’Let the people vote on the police department,’ said councilman George Ingram, chairman of ways and means. The decision to disband the police department in 2014 was based partly on the fact the cost to sustain its viability was taxing the solvency of the city’s austere annual budget. Every month in 2014, the net cost of the police department was disclosed. Despite income from municipal court fines generated by the chief and reserve officers writing tickets for numerous violations each month, there was always a deficit. By December 2014, the income through fines was $26,783, but the actual cost to operate the department for the year was $66,340, leaving a net cost to the city of $39,557. To aid in bringing this expense to a manageable level, council approved this year to impose a $6 customer fee to all water accounts. Public complaints were minimal, but one citizen requested to see evidence of protection for his $6. During discussion of the department’s destiny, a police chief job description was submitted by councilman Damon Riggins and accepted by council. With this document, the city can now advertise to fill this position permanently since Novin Darsey was appointed only as an interim chief. The question of salary came up and the need to include an amount in the employment search. Current salary is based on what Roberts had agreed to receive last year as full time chief, $32,000 a year. Council agreed to advertise the position of police chief with a salary range of $25,000 to $32,000 depending on experience. City clerk Cindy Darsey will contact the office of the Secretary of State to begin the process of placing the city’s police department on the November ballot. COUNCIL ALSO: ’¢ Witnessed Pike Kiwanis president Mike Cox offer praise for Molena being the county’s ‘shining star with clean roadways.’ Recognition and rewards were offered to public works employee Charles Martin for his exemplary work in keeping the city’s rights of way clean. Martin received a certificate of recognition, a gold pick-up bar, a mascot toy pup, a PUP decal and a check for $50 from Kiwanis. ’¢ Approved the low bid of $16,900 from Leary Construction out of Indiana for the painting of the city water tank. The other three bids ranged from $43,000 to over $100,000 for a ten year contract. ’¢ Accepted a letter of resignation from Doug Wilson, a public works and water department employee. Upon approval, an agreement was reached to hire Chris McLemore on a trial basis to read the water meters for $300 a month and to advertise the vacant public works job. ’¢ Approved the pavilion use agreement setting fees at $50 for city residents with 100% refundable after an inspection of the facility and $100 for non-residents with 50% refundable after inspection. Minor changes to the agreement will be ready for final approval in May. ’¢ Appointed David Fowler as interim municipal court judge with a monthly stipend not to exceed $500. ’¢ Heard the county-wide ISO study has been moved to the week of June 12. ’¢ Fielded a complaint through an anonymous letter about a dangerous tree on Allen Drive that will be referred to Georgia Power since it overhangs power lines.

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