Editorial: Local Governments Did Not Invest in their largest assets their employees
LAWRENCE COUNTY - JUNE 7, 2023 - This week it was learned that the Mitchell Police Department is dealing with two big issues in their department. The first being staffing, and the second vehicle issues.
Photo: Two law enforcement officers in Lawrence County was shot in February 2023 near Mitchell, Indiana
The pay raises and support of law enforcement equipment were delayed.
In May, Hoosier Uplands donated body cameras for the Mitchell Police Department. The Mitchell Police Department officers did not have body camera's during an officer involved shooting in February of this year.
The Mitchell City Council never provided the officers with another important asset to the department. Those were body cameras worn by police officers.
The long-standing policy of not allowing sports teams on fire engines due to liability but neglected the most potential liability for the city from police department actions.
The public in asking why we are not paying enough Mitchell City Council President Larry Caudell answered " We have other bills to pay,"
The Mitchell City Council offered stipends and an increase of $8,000 in the 2023 budget cycle and Mitchell Police Chief Troy Loboski told those in attendance " Your too late,"
However, City of Mitchell is not alone in determining what project the cash strapped city funds.
Photo: Bedford police work to apprehend a suspect near Oolitic
During Bedford Mayor Shawna Girgis Administration police and firefighters of that city only received two pay raises during her 12-year term.
In 2013, after three years the Stellar Grant beautification and focus on trails programs took priority over public safety.
Photo: Beautification efforts was a priority of Bedford Residents from 2008-2019 that left city employees only with two raises in twelve years. The Stellar Project is still being paid off with lease at the Stonegate Arts & Education Center that will not be paid off until 2037.
In the Republican dominated city council, only provided two raises during the 12 years they were in office from 2008-2019.
At the time the city council members stated they could not afford to give out raises in their cash strapped city.
Other issues took priority over investing in the city employees.
In his first term as Bedford Mayor Sam Craig in August 2021, raises of 8 to 12 percent were recommended for police and firefighters, while the remaining employees received a five percent raise.
" The whole purpose of the salary study was to get salaries more in line with other three cities in the salary study," said Judy Carlise. The three cities Bedford was compared to was Lebanon, Huntington, and Frankfort.
Bedford Fire Department lost a few fire departments to the Monroe Fire Protection District in Monroe County who paid considerably more.
The Bedford Police Chief Terry Moore and Bedford Fire Chief John Hughes received a 12 percent pay increase in 2022.
However, firefighters and police officers received an 8 percent pay increase in 2022.
During the budget process in 2021 Mayor Sam Craig said we just cannot compete with the salaries that larger departments have such as the Monroe County Fire Protection District.
Video: After three votes of the Lawrence County Council all county employees received a five percent raise in 2023. However, the county elected leaders received a 20 percent or more pay increase in the last two years.
This year, Lawrence County Sheriff Department personnel only saw a five percent pay increase, along with the other county employees that was set to only receive a three percent pay increase originally in the 2023 budget process.
However, most of county elected officials received a 20 percent pay increase in 2022 and 2023. The Republican led county council decided that the county elected leaders was not up to what other elected officials were making in similar counties. The Lawrence County auditor Jessica Staggs seen the most signifcant raise when her salary went from $43,000 a year, up to $59,000 a year.
Photo: Lawrence County Sheriff's Department work a traffic accident on Indiana State Road 60 west
The Lawrence County employees only received an 8 percent pay increase.
The taxpayers facing a large property tax increase in Lawrence County, must decide what kind of government services will get priority over the next several years.
However, the take-home car policy to compensate for low wages, and maintenance costs of vehicles is no longer working either. The Mitchell Police Department had a take home privilege, but maintenance on these police vehicles were never performed.
Lawrence County Sheriff Greg Day warned Lawrence County Council members that his department will be needing new vehicles, and maintenance costs of these vehicles are starting to increase.
The Indiana State Police received the most significant raise with pay close to $70,000 a year. Indiana State Troopers has a starting salary of $59,000.
However, the Republican Office holders also seen a significant salary increase receiving raises of 48-60 percent with the Indiana Governor in 2024 seeing a large paycheck.
Is public safety a top priority or will other needs of a city, town and county take precedence.
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