City council delays police car order

by Mark Cheffey

Mayor Loren Graham broke a 3-3 Palmyra City Council vote Thursday in favor of delaying ordering a new police car until the latest city financial informational is made available.

Police Chief Eddie Bogue asked the council for permission to order a new police vehicle as was budgeted for, and noted it probably wouldn’t be delivered until November or January.

The order would be for a 2021 Ford SUV and would replace one sold earlier this year. Once equipped, Bogue said the new vehicle would come in under the budgeted figure of around $47,000.

“It will come in under budget,” said Bogue who indicated delaying the order very much could push the delivery time into the next budget year.

The mayor and council have been cautious on spending during the business slow down during the COVID-19 pandemic due to possible budget shortfalls.

However, council member Brock Fahy, who chairs the Police Committee recommended moving ahead with the order, noting it had been two years since the police department had purchased a new vehicle.

“This is how (police) protect our town,” Fahy said in justifying the purchase.

Mayor Graham, who  noted the council could have more up-to-date financial information by the time of the next meeting this month, recommended holding off on the order to see how things are by then.

Fahy made the motion to order the vehicle, Patrick Barns seconded it, and the two were joined by Jeremy Warning in favor. However Earl Meyers, Pam Behring and Ellen Goodwin voted against it, forcing a tie.

Bogue also warned the council about a possible police officer shortage in the near future, and recommended extending the city’s requirement that police officers live within 30 minutes driving time to Palmyra.

Bogue said his department is currently down one officer and is struggling to fill the position.

“I’m telling you it’s a very difficult time right now for hiring a police officer,” Bogue said, noting there are few applicants and that some of them are only wanting to take the job if they can commute.

Bogue said one of the best applicants lives in Boone County, an hour and a half drive away and cannot relocate, to Palmyra due to their spouses job.

While the drive time is way beyond the 30-minute requirement, Bogue said it would still be okay since the person is willing to commute and serve the shift assigned to him.

“It would be more of a hardship on him than it would be us,” Bogue said.

Council members expressed concern the person would not be able to respond to emergencies during his off time, but Bogue said it might have to be something the police department would have to cope with.

“I’m just trying to look ahead to the future,” Bogue said.

The issue was referred on to the Personnel Committee for consideration.

Bogue also recommended suspending the school resource officer program the police department shares with the Palmyra R-I School District.

He said he is already down one patrolling officer, and will lose the SRO when school starts. Bogue also noted, if he is elected Marion County Western District Commissioner in November, the department would be further shorthanded, because he would retire.

Bogue said he is supportive of the SRO program, but said it is a luxury compared to the department’s normal duties.

“I feel our town is more important,” Bogue said.

“It’s not a luxury if a kid dies,” said Mayor Graham.

No action was taken concerning Bogue’s recommendation.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to allow the Board of Public Works to spend $64,553 for Klingner & Associates to develop engineering specifications for replacing two of the city’s water wells damaged by flooding last  year.

Fahy, the council’s liaison the BPW said wells are essential and the engineering required in order to received FEMA reimbursement for the project.

The council also approved ordinances requiring R-1 and two family and R-3 multifamily district zones to require adaqute off-street parking for “all inhabitants and residents.”

The council also agreed to move the first meeting of August to Aug. 13.