Belington committee discusses police staffing

After the recent resignations of both Belington’s mayor and chief of police, members of Belington City Council’s Police Committee met Tuesday to take stock of the town’s police department’s needs.

Belington City Council members Max Grove, Marshall Reed and Suzanna Skidmore met with the Belington Police Department’s Sgt. D.J. Harris and Patrolman 1st Class Josh Himes at City Hall.

Reed asked where the city stood regarding the annual COPS grant.

“Josh is being paid by the COPS grant, and it is fine,” Harris said. “We just need to make sure the quarterly report for the grant gets filed.”

Harris said that Belington’s acting mayor, Susan Bradley, called to check on the grant.

“The grant was written to fund the extra fourth officer,” Harris said. “If there is no fourth officer, we need to show that there is a loss or hardship. If not, the city can pay back $40,000 and just have three officers. We have a year obligation to fund this officer after we spend the grant.”

Currently, the Belington Police Department includes Harris and Himes, plus a part-time temporary officer, Ricky Himes. The city currently has no police chief because Keith Rowan tendered his resignation effective April 19.

Rowan said his reason for leaving was that “Mayor Jody Haller’s definition of my job description and mine do not blend together and they never will. It’s like oil and water.”

Haller resigned on May 9 following a stormy council meeting on May 2.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Grove suggested hiring a civilian administrator to help with the police department.

“We could hire an administrator for 20 hours a week for 60 days,” Grove said. “We could then keep them on a month-to-month basis as needed.”

The group agreed the applications on file for police officers are more than a year old, so a recommendation needs to be made to run an ad for officers.

“Our priority is to get two officers hired,” Reed said.

The group also discussed the idea of hiring a part-time enforcement officer.

“This could be a person working 20 to 30 hours a week to deal with complaints about dogs, grass and chickens,” said Harris. “We could use them to check a complaint, give a time frame to fix and check back. They could also send letters or send a citation.”

The group will present their recommendations for consideration at the Belington City Council meeting slated for 7 p.m. Thursday at Belington City Hall.