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Molena to discuss police department vote May 21

By Dwain W. Penn Following the April 13 announcement that Molena council will allow local residents to vote later this year on the fate of the police department, the May 11 meeting has set a date of Thursday, May 21, 6 p.m. at city hall to discuss details and move forward with the referendum. Jay Garner and council are hopeful the public will participate and come with ideas to determine the future of the Molena police department. ’The city spent $808,000 on the police department over the last decade,’ said Garner after chief Novin Darsey’s report on the department. Each month, Darsey brings to council a variety of information from the number of emergency calls received, total traffic and non-traffic citations, warnings issued, status of police vehicles and a financial report. The financial data allows council to monitor how much of city funds are used to sustain the operation of the department. Money is generated each month through court fines but there is always a shortfall creating a net cost to the city. For 2014, court fines brought in $26,783, about 40 percent of the total operating budget of the police department. The city paid the rest. ’Over $800,000 in ten years is a lot of money,’ said Garner. He feels the funds would be useful for other areas of the city such as streets and road repairs. For years, residents of Sands Road have tried to get help to improve drainage by having the ditches pulled to remove the sand. Now the residents are discussing renting the equipment to have the work done. Garner is hesitant about allowing such a precedence. If it is successful, other citizens, when a response to a request is slow in being resolved, may feel the only answer is to do the work themselves. Mayor and council anticipate the May 21 meeting to be a time when citizens of the Pike County hamlet can come together to calmly discuss the pros and cons about the city police department and create concepts and foster ideas to move the town forward in an amicable way for the good of all concerned. One only has to look at other towns in the county (currently three) which have law and order without the benefit of a municipal police force. Molena could do the same. Council also: ’¢Heard from councilman Damon Riggins the city has received three resumes from qualified applicants for the position of police chief. Background checks will be done prior to any discussion at the next scheduled council meeting June 8. ’¢Received a request to investigate the accuracy of a water meter after the three-member household received a monthly bill for over $70. ’¢Learned the Georgia Department of Transportation moved the GA 108 city limits sign closer to downtown. According to the state agency, it was done to match their records. The move doesn’t affect the city’s franchise fee with Georgia Power but it does affect where the city can write traffic citations. City attorney Jack Park will investigate the move. ’¢Heard there has been some illegal dumping of household garbage in the city dumpster, which is located behind the city shop. A proposal was made to move the dumpster and see what happens. ’¢Approved for one more month to retain Chris McLemore with the water department at a cost of $300. ’¢Received a request from public works employee Charles Martin for the city to purchase a golf cart instead of a truck. The matter will be researched to see which will work best for the city. ’¢Approved the appointment of David Fowler as municipal court judge at a monthly stipend of $200. ’¢Considered a quote from the county for $6,500 to make minor repairs on some streets and place crusher run on Watson Road. ’¢Approved the pavilion user agreement and checklist and accepted a bid of $5,631 for a four foot fence between the pavilion and GA 18. ’¢Agreed to scrap the 125 water meters recently purchased from Zebulon because it was discovered they are not lead free.

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