Council concerned by FPD overtime

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, August 6, 2014

FRANKLIN—In the police department, part-time salaries, wages and overtime exceeded the 2013-14 budget by $78,000; and fire and rescue regular and overtime wages exceeded appropriation by $61,000.

City Manager Randy Martin had requested information regarding the breakdown of overtime from the Franklin Police Department. And Robert Porti, deputy chief of police, was on hand to talk about it this past Monday.

From July 2013 to June 2014, Franklin Police Department officers worked 7,806 hours of overtime, which is an increase of 2,978 hours from 2012-13.

Porti said the military deployment of personnel and vacant positions has required officers to have additional workload during regular hours. It also requires the need for them to stay after shifts in order to transfer prisoners, conduct investigations and complete the arrest process.

Ideally, officers are scheduled to attend court, training and other events during scheduled working hours.

“The officers of the Franklin Police Department have worked tirelessly and without complaint,” Porti said.

He also noted that there have been numerous incidents during the past year that demanded additional resources, including the investigation of an alleged serial rapist, the alleged murder of a small child in a hotel and the alleged armed bank robbery of Sun Trust Bank.

The breakdown of overtime is: 799 hours spent in court; 775 hours for shift coverage; 933 holdover hours for investigations; 233 extra hours for being called out to an incident; 231 hours to transport an ECO or juvenile; 530 hours on special assignment (SSTF); 1,215 hours on special assignment (FPD); 683 additional hours on K9 unit maintenance; 79 hours at meetings; 1,847 hours in training; and 481 hours working in administration.

Administration was down one position for part of the year. Concerning officers, one is deployed overseas with no timetable set for when he will return. Two new officers spent time in Police Academy during 2014, which is a 17-week process. Once they complete the academy, they will have to do three to four months of field training before they can be released to independent duty. Out of 30 sworn-in spots for officers, FPD has three vacancies.

“The patrol division has been functioning with the equivalent of one squad short for the entire fiscal year,” Porti said.

Ward 3’s Greg McLemore saw at least one line item that could be eliminated.

“My concern is you are asking for more money from a contingency fund to fund overtime to attend council meetings,” he said. “I have expressed to the city manager several times that there have been no violent outbreaks at council, yet officers are on the clock at every council meeting.”

Porti said he couldn’t break down exactly how much overtime came from council meetings, as that’s in the special assignment category. Due to a police exception, time-and-a-half overtime only begins once an officer get more than 171 hours over a 28-day period.

McLemore said he saw officers being at council meetings a luxury item that should be considered when overtime wasn’t a problem.

“I don’t see that we have a need for it,” he said.

Porti said that it would be fine if council wanted to clear the meetings of its officer. On that day, for example, they had an officer who had come in on his day off to make a court appearance, expecting to work 1 to 2 hours and go home. After court went longer than expected, he got called in for a shift and a mental health emergency transport situation came up that required a trip to Salem. FPD Spokesman Capt. Tim Whitt said later that ended up being an 18-hour day.

“It was supposed to be his day off,” Porti said.

The officer required for council might have been sent to Salem had things been different.

Whitt later said that the 30-officer roster was put into place in 1974, and the city, laws and regulation have grown since then. Even if FPD was fully staffed, overtime would still be a problem.

“Demands placed on officers are increasing every year,” he said, particularly citing mental health. “Mental health issues alone can be time-consuming, taking 6-10 hours depending on where you have to transport them for treatment.”

Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn said Martin requested that the officers attend council meetings. Since talking about whether or not to staff an officer at meetings didn’t relate to the budget item at hand, she urged council to move on.

Which it did. For the first part of the budget amendment, the year-end items and transfers for 2013-14 included:

• The Office of the Registrar, due to the state no longer reimbursing localities for costs associated with special elections or recounts. Costs due to the December 2013 recount was not scheduled in the budget, and a supplement of $1,300 was needed. It was recommended that funds be transferred from juvenile detention services to meet the costs.

• Fire and Rescue, due to line items being under-budgeted for contractual services pay for the city’s ambulance billing. A $10,000 supplement was needed to cover it, and funds could be transferred from additional revenue from ambulance billing charges that exceeded budget expectations.

• Economic development incubator, due to the maintenance budget being insufficient to cover costs with utilities, contracts and repairs and supplies. A $13,000 supplement is needed to cover costs, and the recommended funding source was the city’s additional revenue from rental income.

• Public Works, due to the snow removal line item being under-budgeted by the amount of $14,430. The funds are reimbursable through the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Item 2, line items exceeding available appropriations by $10,000 or more:

• Fire and Rescue’s regular wages and over-time wages exceeded appropriations by $31,000 and $30,000, respectively. The recommendation to cover the costs could come from other Fire and Rescue line items.

• E-911 Dispatch part time wages exceeded appropriations by $18,000. Other line items in the E-911 operating budgets were available for transfer to cover the costs.

Budget amendments for item 3 were:

• Fire and Rescue grant for $7,241.52 from the Department of Health to cover emergency medical supplies.

• Street and highway maintenance funds received an additional $43,700 in revenue from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

• Stormwater management revenue in the amount of $66,970, and Finance Director Melissa Rollins requested that those funds be reallocated from a local revenue line item to a state revenue line item, as the funds are reimbursed from the state.

• General Fund capital outlay items were nearing completion of the loan proceeds for various general fund capital project initiatives. The budget request was to move funds from items where the costs were under-budget to cover spots where the costs exceeded projections.

Regarding the capital outlay items, Martin said that it was on schedule and there may be some dollars left over once they are finished.

No use of additional funds was requested for any of the items, as there were funds available in other categories that had been over-budgeted or exceeded revenue expectations. This includes the police budget request, which was included in item two, though money was requested from the contingency fund in the amount of $35,000 where additional transfers from other line items in the department’s operating budgets did not meet the total shortfall of $78,000.

The Fire and Rescue’s ambulance billing of $10,000 also came under question by Ward 2’s Benny Burgess. Fire and Rescue Chief Vince Holt said it is a billing service for collecting ambulance fees. He said the line item related to the expenses not having been updated since 2005, but that it had been rectified in the 2014-15 budget.

While on the subject, he said the service brought in $300,000 in revenue this past year, and that it was cheaper than what it would cost for him to staff it.

Vice Mayor Barry Cheatham wondered why the company stopped trying to collect after three billing attempts.

Holt said there is a lot of money being left on the table that they aren’t able to collect, and that he’d get those figures for council. Eventually, the bad debt collections are written off. But, as far as three billing attempts, he said they are operating under guidelines that were written 10 years ago and added, “Maybe it is time to revisit that.”

Taking the items on as three separate issues as grouped above, the Franklin City Council voted first on items 1 and 2, and then separately on item 3. All three items relating to budget transfers were approved unanimously, 7-0, with no one absent. Though after the vote McLemore had an issue.

He thought that the police overtime issue was included in item 3 when 1 and 2 were on the table, and didn’t realize it was not until item 3 was actually on the table.

“I made an error,” he said. “Is there anyway I can change my vote on a previous amendment?”

City Attorney Taylor Williams said that he could not after it had already passed, and McLemore asked that it be included in the minutes that he did not agree with funding the police overtime.

• Council also unanimously approved a 2014-15 budget update relating to grants from the Franklin Southampton Charities: $5,000 to Franklin Fire and Rescue, $5,000 to the Hunterdale Fire Department and $400 to the Franklin Police Department.