Parker: We need more police officers

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker told the City Council Monday that he hoped to have 107 officers – an increase of nine personnel – by the end of the year.

Parker gave the City Council his fiscal year 2019 budget requests after the agenda setting meeting at City Hall. Also outlining his budget was Allen Howe, the director of the city’s Water and Sewer Department.

“We currently have 98 officers,” Parker said. “At one time, I was stuck on 94 officers; I couldn’t get above that. With your help, I got up to 98 and I hope to get up to 107 by the end of this year.”

Parker said the department is constantly struggling to keep the officers outfitted with adequate equipment and resources to do their jobs.

“The most critical aspect of HPD’s budget (is pay),” he said. “You have already provided numerous incentives in our fight to retain experienced officers. Therefore, I am asking you to fully fund professional development. This will allow each officer to receive a step ratings increase if they complete specific tasks.”

Parker said salaries would increase $160,500 in the department with his proposal to add officers. He also requested an increase in overtime pay.

“As you know, we are constantly being asked to do a lot of things,” he said. “Until we get the manpower to the level that’s workable for a city this size, we do have to officers who come in on their off time. We have extra concerts, we have extra details and escorts that we have to do.”

Parker said operating expenses will increase in fiscal year 2019 from $240,000 to $260,000 based on fuel consumption and increasing prices.

“With more cars on the street (from the 107 officers) running 24 hours a day, we burn a lot of fuel,” he said. “That’s the minimum amount for projected use. The cost of fuel also has been going up consistently over the last year.”

Parker said a $10,000 increase is needed in repair and maintenance because the maintenance department is moving its facilities to the Bobby L. Chain Airport. Professional services also requires a $9,400 increase in its budget to use the extra money to extradite investigations through the State Crime Lab and other resources.

The monthly cost of telephone rentals increased to $885 per month, Parker said. The department’s transportation budget included officers’ travel to certification classes.

For capital requests, Parker asked for 10 new patrol cars and the replacement of all detective cars.

“The fleet is getting old,” he said. “We haven’t purchased new detective cars since 2014. Right now, the mileage is pushing 130,000 on most of them, and they are constantly getting old and requiring maintenance.”

He also asked for 100 crowd-control barriers for use during parades. Desktop computers for the detectives are not adequate, Parker said. For the department’s START team, he asked for tactical submachine guns, body armor, Kevlar helmets and headsets.

For the Water and Sewer Department’s budget, Howe outlined the five divisions’ requirements for the upcoming year. He started by increasing the minimum wage from $10 to $11, which he said would affect about 12 people. Overall, Howe said the department expects a 1.5 percent increase over the FY18 budget.

In the Water Transmission Division, Howe said asphalt is a problem.

“There is not nearly enough money in the budget for asphalt,” he said. “So, I increased that; I doubled it from $10,000 to $20,000.”

For capital expenses in Water Transmission, the tapping machines will cost about $25,000, and Howe said a pump is needed. One truck is also needed.

In the Water Plant Division, diesel for the generators was not adequately budgeted last year, Howe said.

The budget increased $73,000 for streets and structures in the Sewer Division for jobs around the city.

“There are jobs that we can do every day,” Howe said. “If you ride around, you see barrels on holes in streets all over the place. It’s just it’s old structures, and it’s going to take time to take care of that.”

In the Sewer Lagoon Division, an increase of $80,000 is projected in professional services ($50,000) and utilities ($30,000), Howe said. Customer Accounts Division has a big increase in salaries.

“We hired four people in this division in the last couple of months,” he said. “Three work in the office and another works outside. That person will also be working in the Water Transmission Division.”

Howe said more supplies are needed, while professional services was decreased $135,000. He also plans to buy 24 cellular meters in a pilot program, with the possibility of transferring all meters to cellular.