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Part-time officers face cuts

By Staff | Jun 11, 2010

The Shepherdstown Town Council has approved a plan to hire an additional full-time police officer. This means the the town will likely eliminate six part-time Police Department employees, including five patrolmen, to free up funding for the new hire.

Payroll expenses for part-time employees of the Police Department are a little over $33,000 per year.

Financial projections prepared for the Town Council for its Tuesday meeting at Town Hall, 104 N. King St., show a full-time police officer would cost the town more than $61,000 per year in wages, benefits and training, leaving a shortfall of $28,000.

Councilman Jim Ford took note of the shortfall, in light of the complete elimination of part-time police expenses, and asked where the additional money for the full-time law enforcement position is coming from.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Tim Johnson didn’t offer many details on how the move would be funded, saying in an interview with the Chronicle on Wednesday that the need for a new officer had been anticipated and budgeted.

Responding to Councilman Ford, Mayor Jim Auxer said that there would be an increase in parking enforcement, which could generate revenue to offset the costs.

But town Accounting Clerk Pat Dowell explained in an interview on Wednesday that the only two available sources of revenue to fund the hire of the new officer are the elimination of part-time payroll expenses and a re-allocation of $28,000 per year from the video lottery funds. Mayor Auxer has also previously been reluctant to use video lottery funding for operating and payroll expenses.

Chief Johnson also told the Council the current staffing levels “were just not working out,” and that there were often gaps in police coverage of Shepherdstown, especially in the early mornings.

Currently, Shepherdstown employs four full-time uniformed officers, including Chief Johnson. The Police Department also employs five part-time patrolmen, plus two more additional staff. The plan approved by Town Council will leave Shepherdstown with five full-time officers and one additional staffer.

“We’re always understaffed, because we can always use more officers,” said Johnson in a telephone interview prior to the Town Council meeting on Tuesday. Johnson and Mayor Jim Auxer told the Town Council that recent high-profile incidents of vandalism, such as the defacing of the entrance to Rumsey Monument Park, underscore the need for additional police coverage.

“We’re going to work the schedule out so that we have almost complete coverage,” said Johnson. The new officer would be primarily working an early morning shift.

Johnson told the Chronicle he is looking for a “certified officer,” someone who has already gone through the police academy, and who has people skills and a background in community policing.

The new hire stands to earn $18 per hour, for an annual salary of $37,400, plus an additional $25,000 benefit package, which includes health insurance.