BY STACIE LETT CAIN
The Statesville City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve an incentive package designed to help the Statesville Police Department retain officers.
“We were looking 25 percent vacancy at one time in the department, and many of those officers left to take positions that were more lucrative down the road from us,” Police Chief David Onley said. “With this plan, we are hoping to stop that.”
The plan, presented at Monday’s city council meeting offers education incentives for SPD employees as well as shift-differential pay and additional pay for specialized training and specialized position work. It also expands the department’s take-home vehicle policy to include employees living up to 30 miles from the city limits.
According to Onley, although Statesville’s starting pay rates are competitive with surrounding agencies, the SPD’s salaries for more veteran officers lag behind other agencies.
“We start our employees a bit higher than other neighboring agencies but by the time they have been with us five years, we have already lost that competitive edge and they just aren’t able to achieve higher pay with us like they can other departments,” the chief explained.
City Manager Ron Smith expressed some concern about approval of the proposed plan — not due to a lack of support for the SPD but because of concerns about how it would affect other city departments.
“I am totally in support of making our police department competitive to retain employees,” Smith told the council. “But I also have to be concerned about the other 400-plus city employees who could benefit from an educational incentive program that wouldn’t be getting that chance.”
Even though city policy allows employees to take one college-level course at a public college each semester on the city’s dime, that doesn’t compare to the benefit being offered to SPD employees.
Despite that concern, the council voted unanimously to approve the plan, which will cost the city $607,000 the remainder of this fiscal year.
♦ The council also passed a plan that roadmaps the future growth of the city’s recreation and parks facilities to meet the anticipated growth of the city.
Recreation and Parks Director Richard Griggs introduced Gary Warner of Withers Ravenel, an agency that has worked on Route 2 Recreation for several years, to present a plan on how to expand recreational and parks facilities and offerings to accommodate future population growth.
Depending on which proposals the city chooses to pursue, anywhere from $13 million to $26 million could be invested in new parks, playgrounds, athletic complexes, splash pads and greenways.
And although no specific budgetary items or actions were voted on, the council did vote to accept the plan as a guide for the future.
“This is a roadmap for us to use to make decisions about what we need to do to better for the quality of life for the citizens of Statesville,” Mayor Costi Kutteh explained. “We are not making any decisions this evening.”
♦ The mayor also issued several proclamations to begin the meeting, including Public Power Week Oct. 2-8, Fire Prevention Week Oct. 9-15, Crime Prevention Month as well as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
♦ The Council passed as part of the Consent Agenda the acceptance of grant funds from the State of North Carolina for the construction of an airport terminal as well as funding from the Crime Commission for equipment to read and monitor license plates throughout the city to aid the police department in identifying wanted individuals driving on city streets.
The next scheduled City Council Meeting is October 17 at 7 p.m.