PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth City Council passed multiple pieces of legislation during it Monday evening meeting, including two on third reading and three others where the reading-rule was waived.
Starting with the third reading, council authorized City auditor Trent Williams to close the 2020 fiscal year books and ratified the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council Dispatchers Unit collective bargaining agreement.
The latter was originally of some debate on Council, which passed first reading 3-2 during Council’s Oct. 26 session, but has over the past two meetings become one of more consensus.
Complaints from the public and those on council revolved around what was explained to be rudeness by Portsmouth Police Department dispatchers, which moved Mayor Kevin Johnson and former 4th Ward councilperson Andrew McManus against ratifying a contract which would increase pay for the city’s eight dispatchers.
Johnson shifted sides following an evening spent at their office Nov. 6, experiencing a very busy atmosphere where the dispatchers tended to 911 lines and the radios of varying first responder outlets.
“I realized how much multitasking that they have to do,” said Johnson Monday regarding his visit. “I appreciate our Dispatch, so I have no problem supporting this.”
The measure, which passed in a 4-0 vote, will increase hourly wages increases by 2.75% effective Jan. 1, 2020, and two subsequent 2.5% increases in 2021 and 2022.
“Chief Brewer is going to make it right, I’m sure about that,” said 5th Ward councilperson Edwin Martell, echoing prior words that she needs time to make corrections. Brewer’s hiring took place in late June.
Further down agenda, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon motioned to surpass the three-reading rule for the appropriation and transfer of General Fund money to the Portsmouth City Health Department, a measure requested to be passed as an emergency to avoid a deficit balance and entanglements.
In total, $550,000 will be advanced to the following eight PCHD funds:
- OPRC Safety: $10,000
- STD Control: $25,000
- Drug Free Communities: $70,000
- Injury Prevention: $30,000
- Reproductive Health & Wellness: $25,000
- Public Health Emergency Preparedness: $150,000
- HIV Prevention (Federal): $105,000
- Teens Linked to Care (Primary Care Clinic): $135,000
Gordon’s other requests included the revised Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area application, which was needed after an advertising error and granting right of way access for the Ohio Power Company to build a powerline in the area of Thomas Avenue. That powerline will be used by Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing.
Questions were again raised by Council regarding the purchase of the $265,000 Lenco Medcat vehicle, which would be used by the city’s fire and police departments.
Johnson recently sat down with Lt. Cory Summers and Officer Nick Shepherd, who spoke at the City Managers’ meeting Nov. 9, and Brewer to discuss maintenance and viewed more details online.
Beyond it being an assault vehicle, its bullet-proof exterior ideal for armed conflicts, the mayor also sees it as a way to prevent such situations from becoming a reality.
“The appearance of this vehicle can do so much in a bad situation,” he said, describing what he read about the vehicle that seats 15 and comes with trauma lighting. “If this kind of equipment saves one officer if it saves one life, how do we ever put a price on a life?”
Gordon asked whether contracts could be made between the city and departments in other towns like Ironton or the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office. Shepherd said while sharing the vehicle is a possibility, agreements would likely complicate matters especially with changes in administration.
In his discussion, Shepherd reported multiple shootings, stabbings, barricaded subjects, and drug searches over the past six months. These instances proved the need for a vehicle of this caliber in his opinion.
“The purpose of the vehicle isn’t just in a tactical sense or a law enforcement sense,” he said. “It’s also for natural disasters, floods, and medical conditions.”
The price of the vehicle should not be a concern in this matter, Johnson and Shepherd feel, and auditor Williams verified that the city could afford it. The mayor would also like council to waive the reading rule at next meeting.
“The worst thing we can do as city leaders is waiting until a criterial incident happens which costs a first responder or a citizen their life before we take the necessary actions,” reads a letter from Police Chief Debra Brewer and Fire Chief Bill Rasion addressed to Council, where both departments would do regular upkeep of the vehicle.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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