“I’ll give you the bad news,” Welch said. “We’re not going to make it to the end of the year with a fully-staffed police department. It’s just not going to happen.”
He then referred the council members to their financial statements, which he said reflects that the city is operating in the red every month.
He and the other council members expressed concern over the number of overtime hours being logged by the police department.
The department is now providing 24-hour coverage for the city, which equals 168 hours.
Welch said he expected some overlap, resulting in up to 176 hours to be clocked and expanded that to 200 hours a week in order to cover the football games. He said the department is still hitting 220 hours or more each week, saying they need more time to finish paperwork.
“We’re talking about numbers up here that aren’t happening out there,” Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harvey said. “It doesn’t matter how many times we talk about numbers up here if that’s not what’s going on down there. If we say 170 hours or 180 hours or 200 hours, then that’s how many hours need to be on the clock.”
Welch said the council had never officially set hours for the officers, but had pushed to have 24-hour coverage. He said he needs a plan for controlling the department’s overtime, whether that meant a new policy to limit the hours or removing an officer.
“That 24-hour coverage is going to cost us,” Welch said. “I want it, and I’ll stand by it, but we need a happy medium.”
Welch cautioned that he would take drastic action if the situation was not remedied, and he wanted the council to be aware in the event that he was forced to do something.
“I wouldn’t be near as mad about it if we had 24-hour coverage from November of last year when we wanted it,” Harvey said.
“We just got it this month, so we’ve been paying 200+ hours every week for the last year. Now here we are in a money crunch and we can’t even say we provided 24-hour coverage for our town for the past year. That’s what makes me angry.”
According to the last audit, the town spends approximately 40 percent of its budget on the police department.
Welch sent a text during the meeting to the police chief and assistant chief that said the department would pay no more than 40 hours per week unless the overtime was approved by the mayor.
The department currently has four full-time officers and one part-time officer.