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TELL CITY - A federal program supporters hope will put thousands of new police officers on American streets could help Tell City add one or two officers to its force, the city's police chief said Monday.
Greg Hendershot asked the Tell City Board of Public Works and Safety for permission to apply for the Cops Hiring Recovery Program. Up to $1 billion will be made available for the hiring and rehiring of law-enforcement officers. Grants will pay officers' salaries and benefits for three years. In return, the city would pledge to retain the officers when the grant period ends.
Hendershot encouraged the board to consider a grant that would cover two officers, saying the department was understaffed. Tell City has 12 full-time police officers and department leaders, including David Faulkenberg when he was chief, have asked for additional patrolmen to meet a growing volume of calls. The council hasn't disagreed more officers are needed, but pointed to a lack of new revenue in the city's budget.
The last time the size of the department expanded was in 1998 when Patrolman Jeff Bender was hired. He and Lt. Alan Malone, hired in 1995, joined the department through similar grants, Hendershot said.
"I believe the city has a great opportunity to increase the police department, which provides safety and security for the citizens of Tell City," he told the board.
The number of calls into the department has climbed steadily over the past decade, he said, meaning officers are sometimes swamped with calls and have to prioritize which ones they'll respond to immediately and which have to wait.
Hendershot predicted the gloomy economy will increase demands on the department.
"The state of the economy is never justification to commit a crime but it does put people under stress," he said.
Hendershot pointed to last Friday's bank robbery in Dale as an example of the types of crimes, including break-ins and thefts, that may become more numerous as people struggle to cope.
Hendershot also pointed to the demands future annexation by the city would bring. State law requires cities to provide police services within six months of adding areas.
"The department is stressed now trying to keep up with the calls for service not to mention the burden of additional calls annexation would bring," he said.
The board tabled a vote on the request to obtain more information on how obligated the city would be to accept funding, if a grant applied for this spring is awarded. The city has yet to receive formal approval of its 2009 budget and next year's financial plan is even more uncertain.
Works board member John Little asked if the grant would cover raises during the three-year period. Hendershot said the grant would pay for entry-level wages but under city salary guidelines, officers make more money as they advance from probationary to first-class patrolman status.
Asked about the need for additional squad cars if new officers are hired, Hendershot pointed out that there are two pool cars, now mainly used by reserve officers, that could be put into full-time service.
Street Commissioner Jeff Everly reported on the clean-up and possible source of a heavy layer of silt that coated two 20th Street intersections before dawn Friday, the result of heavy overnight rains.
Much of the mud came from a nearby hillside, which traveled downhill and into the streets at Mozart and Franklin streets. Leaves carried by the rain clogged grates in drains and prevented water from draining into Windy Creek, allowing more mud to build up.
Wastewater Superintendent Bruce Badger said one way of preventing a recurrence is to widen the opening in grates but he wants to make sure leaves don't clog the drain that carries storm-water to the creek.
Another likely step is to work with the property's owner to prevent people from dumping limbs and other debris in ditches, making it less likely those items will wash downstream.
In other business, works board members welcomed Boy Scout Clint Waninger, who attended the meeting.