Michael Cox Named New Fire Chief
Editor’s Note: The Mercer County Fiscal Court approved a $1.75 meter fee at their meeting on Tuesday, May 9. The Harrodsburg City Commission approved a $1 meter fee at their meeting, as reported in this story. We reached out to Harrodsburg City Clerk about the discrepancy and this is her reply: “When we received the document from the 1st reading it said $1.00. I have not seen the final document however, I heard it was $1.75.”
The Harrodsburg City Commission voted to raise police officers’ salaries and to reinstate hazardous pay for all police and firefighters. They also announced a new fire chief.
At the commission’s regular meeting on Monday, May 8, they voted to adjust the pay rate of the police department by $2 per hour. The agenda originally said $3 per hour, but the commission changed it at the last minute.
Commissioner Charlie Mattingly, who oversees the public works department, questioned the timing of the raise.
“I’m all for it 120 percent,” said Mattingly, who said he was in favor of raises for all city employees. “I don’t think right now is the time because we don’t know what our new budget is going to look like.”
The commissioner said he wanted to prepare the city’s budget to see if the money was in there for all city employees to get a raise.
“Right now is not the time,” Mattingly said. “It sends a bad message to the other employees.”
Commissioner Missy Banks argued it was difficult to retain personnel. “I need to do something now,” Banks said. She said she may be down to one officer patrolling the town at night. “I don’t want to have to rely on the county.”
“It’s important that we show them or promise them that things are going to happen,” Banks said.
The commissioner said the city invests up to $60,000 in training for each new officer. “It is critical retaining first responders in this community,” said Banks. “I’m tired of turnover.”
“All I’m asking is to wait on the new budget,” said Mattingly, who said the city was $500,000 short on its last budget and had to dip into reserve funds to make up the shortfall. Mattingly said he wanted to see if the city was in better shape fiscally before moving forward.
Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham said police and fire have been underpaid for years. Isham said the commission needed to go ahead and give them the $2 raise. If the city faced another fiscal shortfall, “We’ll just have to cut costs somewhere else,” Isham said.
Banks and Police Chief Tim Hurt said there was money in the current budget to cover the raise until the end of the year. Banks said they would eliminate a line item to make it sustainable next year. In the end, everyone on the commission voted yes except Mattingly.
Amy Kays-Huffman, the water department supervisor, said she was happy the fire and police are getting extra money, but asked the city commission to not forget the other employees.
Cpl. Jarrod Duncan asked about the original $3 an hour raise on the agenda. Mayor Moseley said they had to readjust it on the fly.
“We had to look at other issues,” Moseley said.
The “other issue” became apparent when the commission voted to approve hazardous duty for all police officers and firefighters effective July 1 pending approval from the Kentucky Public Pensions Authority and a pending budget analysis. This motion passed unanimously, with Commissioner Mattingly stressing that he was voting pending budget analysis. Moseley told Duncan and other police officers and firefighters who attended the meeting that’s what the extra dollar was for.
After an executive session, the commission voted to promote interim Fire Chief Michael Cox to be the permanent fire chief at $30 an hour pending drug screen. Chief Cox’s salary will be backdated to date Cox became the interim chief.
The new chief kept his speech short and sweet.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cox said.
On Monday, the city also announced a $1 fee that will be collected on each water meter starting July 1. That is $1 per meter per month. Mayor Moseley said the fee was established by the Mercer County Fiscal Court for the financial support of the Bluegrass 911 Communications.
The mayor said county is implementing the new surcharge county wide and the city was just making the announcement.
“Will it bring the 911 center back to Mercer County?” asked George Camic.
The mayor said no. Moseley, who formerly supervised the 911 center as well as the police and fire departments, said it was a nearly half a million budget.
“It’s a huge expense,” Moseley said. He said the city had not had a chance to check all the ins and outs.