Belington Council appoints new police chief

After an approximately 90-minute executive session, Belington City Council voted to hire current Police Sgt. D.J. Harris as chief of the town’s police department Wednesday.

Harris was appointed for a 90-day probation period. City Council had offered to hire Harris as chief during the June 19 meeting, but delayed the decision after Harris asked to sit down with members of Council’s Personnel Committee.

Council also voted to hire a third officer for the department, also on a 90-day probation period. Council members voted during the June 19 meeting to advertise for police officers for one week and then to start interviewing the applicants.

Also Wednesday, Harris asked for permission to accept sealed bids for one of the police department’s old vehicles.

“The Crown Victoria is useless to us,” Harris said. “There are two vehicles left. I want to get police cars so they last longer than what we have. We have civilian cars.

“Through this company I have been looking at, we can get refurbished vehicles with the extra we have in our budget. I can get two vehicles for under $20,000, and they are pretty much ready to go.”

“Once again, there is a little problem with the money you are talking about,” Mayor Bobby King said. “We have a COPS grant thing and we might have to pay that money back. We can’t go out and spend a lot of money until we get that settled. If we have to pay that back in full, it is more than $50,000.

“We are still talking with Charleston on the COPS grant,” King said.

“I actually talked to the grant people the other day and it’s been turned over to a committee,” Belington City Clerk Susan Bradley said. “I asked them how long we are looking for before we receive an answer about the status and they said two to four weeks. So hopefully within that time, we will know something.”

Councilwoman Suzanna Skidmore asked what happened with the COPS grant.

“I know we were supposed to have three police officers,” Skidmore said.

Bradley said she did not know.

“Whoever wrote the grant, wrote it for a fourth officer,” Bradley said. “And now we only have three officers, actually only two.”

King said that they need to have an item on the agenda for next the council meeting addressing the grants situation.

“Every grant that is written needs to come through Council for a vote,” King said. “Council needs to know how these grants work so we don’t get behind on them and have to repay them.”

Council members voted to advertise the Crown Victoria for sale, with a reserve bid of $2,000.