Como Board Meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2009

Interim police chief asks to stay, recommends new hirings

By John Howell Sr.

Consideration of rehiring municipal employees led to a ranging discussion of the personnel and operation of the Como Police Department Tuesday night.

Interim Police Chief Mike Davis, whose notice last month about his intention to resign prompted a called meeting June 22, had changed his mind and informed the town’s mayor and aldermen by letter that he wanted to stay.

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Davis also made recommendation that the police department be authorized to appoint an assistant chief, that officers Fred Bosky and Lucius Oliver be made full-time employees of the department with Bosky serving in a position as technical officer. Como Mayor Judy Sumner read Davis’ recommendations to aldermen and to the roomful of citizens who attended. Davis also recommended the hiring of two additional full-time officers and to retain part-time officers for scheduling gaps and special events.

Como has functioned with mostly part-time policemen who are also full time deputies with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department since September, 2008 when its former police chief was fired. Davis himself also works full-time as a Panola Deputy Sheriff.

The police discussion evolved into a broad-ranging venting of complaints, praise, suggestions and questions about the police department.

Alderman Ruby Higgenbottom described the June 28 theft of a lawn mower and its trailer from her father’s yard in Como.

“Who was on duty and where were they?” Higgenbottom asked.

The alderman said that upon Officer Earl Burdette’s return after a military leave, he recovered the stolen property within a day.

Alderman Everette Hill described a recent fight involving a large number of participants. The sole Como officer on duty refused to leave his car until backup arrived from the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, the alderman said.

“We’re trying to get full-time officers,” Mayor Sumner said.

“Como will be their priority,” Summer and Higgenbottom both said, simultaneously.

“Is Barber going to give us information on the applicants?” Alderman Forster Ruhl asked, referring to June 22 decision to consult retired law enforcement officer, Como resident Joe Barber, during the applicant screening process.

“I think I can do that and give the information to the board,” the mayor replied.

Ruhl also asked about a written report from Barber on equipment purchases anticipated for the police department funded through a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant and about the need for additional officers.

“Did we approve two officers on Main Street?” Alderman Bill Mitchell asked, referring to the June 22 meeting during which aldermen discussed hiring two officers for Main Street on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We talked about it,” Police Chief Davis said.

The discussion ranged from through officers’ bonding, emergency hiring to prevent a lapse of patrol coverage, speeding on the town’s streets and the delivery of stop signs ordered to slow it down and finally, on a motion by Alderman Clark Gregory and second from Hill, aldermen voted unanimously to hire the two full-time officers.

Following the vote, the mayor expressed her appreciation for the part-time officers. “It would have been a disaster if these guys had not stepped forward and offered their help,” Sumner said, generating a round of applause aldermen and spectators.

In other business, aldermen:

•Approved a request by Como Church of Christ Pastor Glenn Bowman to use the community building for feeding Friday lunch to youth during July;

•Approved motions to pay municipal election commissioners Judy Gravatt, Teresa Wallace and Louise Brown $250 each for their last four years’ service and reappointed them for another four years;

• Accepted the bid of certified water operator Michael Purdy as contractor to test and monitor the municipal water supply for $800 monthly;

• Approved motions for a new grant administrator to close out a 2005 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and for the mayor to sign a contract for the transaction.

All votes were unanimous.

Mayor Sumner’s report of old and new business included:

“We are in the final stages of the IRS; … if they do what they say they’re going to do, it’s good news,” she said. The mayor said that she would announce details when she receives the proposal in writing.

Como ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service in 2007 when town accounts were seized for nonpayment of employee withholdings starting in 2005.

•Progress has been made toward correcting derelict properties in the town, the mayor continued.

“Everything that we condemned last year has been taken care of,” with one exception, she said.

•A compilation of Como’s revenues and expenses for the 2006-’07 fiscal years is nearing completion, she said.