By MARINA WATERS
The Jonesborough Police Department will soon grow by two new police officers.
During the Town of Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Monday, July 13, the board unanimously accepted the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services grant to help secure two new police officers in Jonesborough.
“It’s an opportunity to have the cost for our police officers offset,” Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said, “and it allows us to have a larger police force and a safer police force.”
The COPS grant is a $250,000 grant that allows agencies to hire additional officers. The grant is a 75-25 matching-grant. According to town documents, the grant will fund around 72% of the new officers’ salary and benefits for three years.
However, the two officers Jonesborough Police Chief Ron Street has selected for the positions are set for a higher pay grade than what most new officers under the COPS grant typically earn. The COPS grant sets them at a step three salary while the officers would start at a step five. Street said that is because of both officers’ levels of experience.
“The difference here is when we were asked to look at this grant,” Street said, “we looked at it from a perspective of hiring a new officer with no training … We are very fortunate. I’m proud of the fact we’re starting to attract senior officers from other agencies. This is not what I refer to as gypsy police officers. These are good, solid police officers that have got good records, good backgrounds and will make excellent police officers here.”
Though the vote was unanimous, Alderwoman Virginia Causey said she wanted to make sure there was room for the new positions in the budget.
“I’m not against this COPS grant,” Causey said. “I want these police officers. I just think we need to be cautious on our budget … We need to make sure the budget can handle this.”
Street and Jonesborough Director of Public Safety Craig Ford both said hiring the two experienced officers, who come equipped with the necessary police certifications, would save the town compared to a brand new police officer.
“Training is $2,667 plus $950 for academy meals and $950 for off academy meals which is a total of $4,167,” Street said. “In addition, we pay four pay periods on entry level which comes to $5,088 while he’s at school not benefiting us a bit here. When he comes back from the academy, we owe him 200 hours of comp time and if you put a dollar amount to that you’re talking $3,180 … So we are saving over $10,000 right off the bat in hiring a senior officer plus the real benefit to us is that we can put them on the road just in a few weeks.”
Vest added that he felt this was an opportune time to add the positions to the budget.
“It’s somewhat a good time actually,” Vest said. “There are going to be some long-term savings here. If there is a better time to do it, it’s before you actually set your budget.”
The next BMA meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. at town hall, 123 Boone St., Jonesborough.