City council discusses salaries, police vehicles
The Bella Vista City Council listened to police chief James Graves discuss new equipment acquisitions and salaries for elected officials during its work session Monday, May 14.
The council looked at a resolution to set salaries for the mayor, city clerk and city council members.
The proposed salaries include $8,000 annually for city council members, $15,000 for the city clerk and $89,612 annually for the Mayor from July 1 to the end of the year, increasing to $97,161 annually starting Jan. 1, 2019.
Mayor Peter Christie said the city updates these salaries every two years, but he wanted to do it early this year so people who might be interested in running for city council can know what their compensation will look like before they sign up.
These numbers were based on a report prepared by Human
Resources director Melissa Cruise. Cruise wrote that the city clerk position, which puts in roughly 30 hours per week, is currently making less than minimum wage at $9,126 annually, which equates to $8.77 per hour.
The mayor’s current wage, according to the report, currently sits at $82,064, 31 percent below the $118,581 average for the region and 5.5 percent below the $86,870 average salary for mayors in similarly-sized towns.
Council members currently receive a $6,331 stipend, according to the report, which places the pay 21 percent below the average for similarly-sized cities in Arkansas.
The council also heard from Graves, who said he is interested in acquiring some equipment.
Graves told the council that the police department is participating in the Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO program, which provides excess Department of Defense equipment to police departments at no charge.
The department has acquired some equipment, he said, including a generator that will be used in the evidence building and a 30-passenger bus.
“You never know what
you’re going to get,” he said.
The catch, he said, is that while the police department may use this equipment to support other agencies, like the fire department, these items have to remain police equipment.
Additionally, he said, there’s no way to know what kind of condition something is in until the department gets it, though the program doesn’t typically provide police with junk. So while the items may be free, there could be maintenance costs.
Moreover, he explained, there are two classes of equipment a department may acquire: uncontrolled and controlled. Uncontrolled equipment, he
said, must be kept for a full year, but if it isn’t working out for the department it can be put up for auction after this first year.
Controlled equipment, he said, must be surrendered back to the LESO program if the department decides not to keep it.
And because he wants to pursue some controlled equipment, Graves said he needs to advise the council. In particular, he said, he’d like to obtain two Humvees and an MRAP, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck.
“There’s a lot of thoughts whether or not departments should have items like these,” he said.
The Humvees could be helpful in icy conditions
and flood rescues as well as getting police and firefighters across rough terrain, he said, while the MRAP is essentially a large armored truck that could provide cover and safe evacuation of officers and civilians in a shooting situation.
“So let’s be ready, and hopefully it’ll never happen here.”
The council also discussed creating a tree advisory board, a program where Cooper students designed prospective city flags, repealing an ordinance against solicitation from persons driving motor vehicles, purchasing a truck for a new building inspector and allowing playground equipment in front yards.
The police department is participating in the Law Enforcement Support Office program. James Graves Police Chief