05/26/13 — Fremont grapples with police pay, budget

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Fremont grapples with police pay, budget

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on May 26, 2013 1:50 AM

The mayor of Fremont formed a committee at the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility of appropriating more money for wages for the part-time officers who cover weekends in Fremont.

The committee, comprised of Mayor W. Darron Flowers, Alderman Annie Lewis and Alderman W.T. Smith, will meet Tuesday with Town Manager Kerrie McDuffie and Police Chief Paul Moats Jr. to discuss the possibility of increased funding for the department.

Part-time officers cover weekend shifts to keep the streets of Fremont under 24-hour patrol.

For the past several years, the police budget has scheduled $11,000 for part-time police pay.

However, significantly more than that was spent in past years due to the high number of officer turnover, which caused money budgeted for full-time salaries to be used for part-time officers to cover vacancies.

In the 2011-12 fiscal year, $11,000 was budgeted for part-time wages, $51,977 was spent.

And so for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Moats requested $26,000 for part-time wages.

However, only $18,000 has been recommended -- an $8,000 difference that is currently planned to be used to cover payments on the two new police cars the town recently bought.

But while McDuffie says $18,000 is more than enough to keep at least one officer on duty at all times, Moats' concern is officer safety on the "high crime" nights of Thursday through Saturday.

Moats says he wants to have more than one officer on duty those nights so that backup is right around the corner as opposed to a Wayne County Sheriff's deputy 20 minutes away.

To have an officer on duty 24 hours a day every day, accounting for sick time, training, vacation, events such as the Daffodil Festival, and court dates takes about 800 part-time hours, said McDuffie.

At the current pay rate for part-time officers of $14.23 per hour, he explained, the proposed $18,000 would allow for slightly more than 1,200 hours of part-time work -- an amount that he the other town officials who worked on the budget believe to be sufficient.

Still, Moats said, he is concerned that having a smaller police presence on Fremont's streets will reverse the noticeable reductions in the crime rate in recent years.