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CANNELTON - Cannelton works-board and council members approved April 13 the hiring of two part-time officers to fill gaps in protection provided by the city's police department.
Sgt. Eric Dickenson has been temporarily placed in the chief's position, left vacant by the March 3 death of Kenny Kellems, Mayor Smokey Graves said during the regular meeting of the board of public works and safety.
"Twenty-four-hour coverage is our first priority," Dickenson said in launching an explanation of a coverage study he conducted. The city's two full-time officers were limited to 48-hour weeks under a city ordinance, and accrued approximately 500 hours' compensatory time collectively. If the city were to pay them for it, the bill would be approximately $9,600, Dickenson said. Reducing the comp time was one of the study's goals, he said.
The acting chief, who won't continue to accrue comp time in that role, hoped to hire three trained part-timers already working with other local law-enforcement agencies. Training costs would be avoided, equipment would be issued from existing inventory and as part-timers, they wouldn't get costly benefits such as insurance, he added.
"We need several because they have other jobs and family commitments we'll have to work around," Dickenson said.
Two part-timers could be paid by splitting the sergeant's-position pay, the works board decided. A third officer could come through the U.S. Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services, whose grants fund the salaries of officers for three years. A community receiving the funding is committed to funding an additional year.
Dickenson said he'd applied for a grant ahead of an April 15 deadline.
"We're not obligated," he said. "It just ensures we're in the running."
He was optimistic about getting the money.
President Obama has added funds to the federal program and "the state Department of Justice said they'll have funding and 'if you don't get the federal money, come to us,' " Dickenson said
Putting Dickenson into the chief's position opened the sergeant's slot, the mayor noted.
From the audience, former Police Chief Charlie Little countered an initial motion to eliminate the sergeant's position and replace it with two part-time slots.
"I fought hard to get that position, so I want to ensure we don't lose it," he said. He agreed with the effort to hire two part-timers, but "I don't want to go backward."
On that advice, the works board adopted a motion to recommend that the council leave the sergeant's position vacant and move its funding to an extra-duty-police-officer budget line.
The council concurred, and Richard Kratzer and Richard Myers were sworn in as part-timers following their meeting.
In other police business, the council adopted a resolution expressing "deepest sympathy" and "gratitude for his years of service" to Kellems' family. They also opted to donate his service weapon to his widow, Doris, in what Graves said is "a common practice and courtesy at the passing of a chief."