Silverhill Town Council considers hiring additional patrol officer rather than chief

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 2/14/18

SILVERHILL, Alabama — Following a lengthy discussion, the Silverhill Town Council decided at its regular meeting Monday, Feb. 5 to hold off on a decision of whether or not to hire a new police …

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Silverhill Town Council considers hiring additional patrol officer rather than chief

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SILVERHILL, Alabama — Following a lengthy discussion, the Silverhill Town Council decided at its regular meeting Monday, Feb. 5 to hold off on a decision of whether or not to hire a new police chief.

Mayor Tim Wilson asked the council to consider instead hiring another patrol officer, which met with mixed reaction from council members.

“I don’t feel that we need a chief,” said Council member Tonie Norden. “If we have someone who can fill the administrative duties, why do we need a chief when what we need are more patrol officers?”

Kevin Brock, who had served as the town’s police chief since June of 2016, resigned from the position on Jan. 25. No official reason was given for his resignation.

Sgt. Michael Taylor, who has taken over administrative duties for the department, addressed concerns with council members at the meeting, including the need to change the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and the issue of excessive overtime.

“There is language (in the SOP) that contradicts itself, making it impossible to enforce certain statutes, and other language that doesn’t apply to a small department like ours,” Taylor said.

As far as overtime, he said, “We have officers that are working over 50 hours a week, sometimes up to 60 hours a week. We are working every holiday and every weekend without a break. This isn’t about me. This is about being able to properly serve the town and our officers have to have a break somewhere.”

The town currently has three fulltime and one part-time officer, Taylor said.

Council member Jared Lyles suggested that one solution could be to take the part-time position and make it fulltime.

“I’m not suggesting that we would have to take the current part-time officer and make him fulltime, although I think he would probably get first consideration,” Lyles said, “but I think it would certainly help if we could have four fulltime officers.”

Other council members expressed concern that hiring another fulltime officer would mean that the town would not be able to hire a chief should they decide to do so at a later date.

“I just think that we do not need to put ourselves in a box of hiring another officer, then deciding later to hire a chief and not be able to do so,” said Council member Wayne Gruenloh.

Lyles said if the town could advertise for both positions, they could decide later which of the positions they could fill, “and that would not be putting ourselves in a box.”

In the end, the council voted to table the issue after concerns were raised over whether or not the town could legally not hire a chief.

“I really don’t know if there is or is not a legal issue,” said Town Attorney Josh Myrick. “I would have to look into that and get back to you.”

The council’s next regular meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 19 with a work session beginning at 5:30 and regular meeting at 6 p.m.

In other business Monday, the council agreed to meet with members of the Silverhill Volunteer Fire Department, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26 after concerns were expressed about amendments to the town’s fire department ordinance.

The council tabled action Monday on Ordinance 443-02-05-2018 to amend and replace Ordinance 118-02-04-1966 and Ordinance 204-04-07-1980.

Fire Chief Josh Rice and Assistant Chief George Watters addressed council members saying they had several concerns about the ordinance, including a provision that the department had to maintain at least 10 active members.

“What happens if we fall below 10 members?” Rice said. “There’s really no provision in here for that.”

Myrick said that he followed a standard ordinance in drawing up the ordinance.

“It doesn’t have to be 10, but I feel like there does need to be a minimum number in order to maintain a department,” he said. “We can change that if you want.”

Asked if that was their only concern brought an emphatic “no” from Rice and Watters, along with other members of the department who were present at the council meeting.

Other concerns expressed with the ordinance included a provision providing limitations on volunteers over the age of 55 (Watters stated that he is 64) and concerns about penalties incurred for anyone violating the ordinance.

“No other department in Baldwin County has (age-limit restrictions) in their ordinance,” Watters said. “You could effectively be cutting out half the department with just this one provision.”

Council members agreed to hold a work session with fire department volunteers to go over their concerns and make any necessary changes before adopting the ordinance.

“It’s time to move forward with this,” Wilson said. “We went over this line by line and I thought everyone was okay with it. We need to get this done.”

In other business Feb. 5, the council:

•Authorized Superintendent of Utilities Scottie Smith to spend $1,100 on repairs for a Utilities Department vehicle.

•Approved an expense of $4,508 with Bill Patterson Construction to finish the parking lot at Oscar Johnson Park.

•Authorized Smith to spend $9,000 on wood chips for the Silverhill Kid’s Park, which will be closed while the repairs are done. Rubber mulch also needs to be purchased, but Myrick said the town needs to follow the bid process because the expense would be over $15,000.

•Tabled action on roof repairs to the Oscar Johnson Library. The library has three bank Certificates of Deposit and needs to determine which are closer to maturity in order to fund the project, which will cost approximately $9,300.