Grant could pay for cops

Published 10:59 am Saturday, October 16, 2010

FRANKLIN—The City of Franklin has received a $385,310 federal grant to hire two patrolmen.

Now it’s up to the City Council to either accept or turn down the money.

The grant would cover the cost of salaries and benefits for two entry-level officers for three years, Police Chief Phil Hardison said Friday. An entry-level officer is paid $34,607 annually. The pay is increased to $36,821 after the officer completes required training.

After the three years, the city would have to take over paying for the salaries and benefits for a minimum of one year, Hardison said. If the grant is accepted, the city will have 32 full-time officers.

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said Friday she would be willing to accept the grant, but she has concerns.

“We need more officers. We’ve taken that stand in the past,” Johnson said. “The main thing I would be interested in is hearing from the (city) manager and other colleagues about how we would fund those positions later.”

Councilman Don Blythe agrees.

“Before I would sign off, I would like to know where the money will come from (for the fourth year),” Blythe said. “Things in the city are tight on the financial end.”

On the surface, the hiring of two new officers is great, said Councilman Barry Cheatham.

“As the chief has said, we need to expand the force to control some of the problems that the city is experiencing,” Cheatham said. “Now that we are at full force — the first time since I have been on council — we need to look at the extra officers needed to fulfill the council’s obligation to keep its citizens safe.”

“The grant sounds like a great start, but I will need to review the grant before I can comment on which way I will vote on its acceptance,” he added.

Hardison said he believes the extra police are “certainly needed and necessary.”

“Given the challenges we currently face, and the challenges we will face in the future in terms of maintaining a safe community and being able to continue to qualify as a public safety service that our citizens are accustomed to, this is the only way we can continue to have that ability.”

Mayor Jim Councill was pleased to hear the news.

“It’s a wonderful program for us,” Councill said. “We’re excited we’ve been chosen.”

He too says the city needs to be prepared for future costs of the program.

“We’ve done it before. When we first get it, it’s fine and then we have to pick up (the tab),” Councill said. “With the economy being tight as it is, we don’t have to accept the grant.”

The funding from the U.S. Department of Justice was announced by U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner, both D-Va. A total of $148 million in federal grants were awarded to Virginia agencies, municipalities and public safety organizations.