Concerns about recent issues with the Collegedale Police Department prompted the city’s board of commissioners to have a comprehensive management review of the police and public works departments done by MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service). At the commission meeting Monday night, Rex Barton, a police management consultant, told the commissioners that he believes Collegedale has a very well equipped and well-trained police department.
Two on-going high-profile incidents were left out of the evaluation, because there are lawsuits pending.
One lawsuit concerns a whistle blower and the other is about an alleged police quota system.
After interviewing almost everyone in the department, including three officers who were later terminated, Mr. Barton said there had been a very small number of officers who were unhappy. He said a problem was that the dissatisfaction escalated because there was an inference that one or more police personnel have a connection with a commissioner and said they feared for their jobs. All five commissioners should speak as one, said the consultant.
In response to the high rate of turnover within the department, Mr. Barton said, “Welcome to the new normal.” Other agencies are also seeing unprecedented turnover, and he said some could be attributed to generational differences, where people are accustomed to changing jobs.
He said all police personnel who were interviewed believe the Collegedale Police Department provides a high level of service to the citizens, and he said no one complained about pay and benefits, and all felt they had excellent training. Mr. Barton suggests the city needs a better way of tracking the training.
Every police officer he spoke to believes that they are well-equipped. Only two issues with equipment were identified in the interviews - the make and model of the police vehicles and wearing load-bearing vests. These vests shift weight from a person’s knees to their shoulders. A limited number of officers are allowed to wear them in Collegedale, but more would like to. Mr. Barton’s suggestion was to not let anybody wear them. They have a very militarist image that frightens citizens, he said.
Recommendations resulting from the MTAS study are:
· To go through an outside facilitator process
· To start an accreditation process for the police department
· That City Manager Ted Rogers meet monthly to listen to and answer questions from employees
· For the department to produce an annual report. The public has a right to know, he said
· To regularly put the department’s statistics on the city’s website
· To use real-time crime mapping and to start a citizens police academy. "They can become your greatest supporters," said Mr. Barton.
MTAS consultant Sharon Rollins headed the study of the city's public works department. She said that organizational structure is good, is adequately staffed and works well. One suggestion to improve the structure was to recommend adding a GIS technician to assist with the growth and complexity of the sewer system and to make better use of the administrative assistant.
Ms. Rollins told the commissioners that she was impressed with leadership which shows professionalism in the public works department. There is a good culture of trust, teamwork and work ethic, she said.
Recommendations for this department include:
· More frequent all-staff meetings
· The addition of annual performance reviews
· To increase professional and technical training
· Work to increase participation in recycling. It now costs more than it should
· To increase money for paving to keep good roads in good condition
· Find ways to motivate staff such as compressed work weeks
· Write down the standard operating procedures so they are available for new personnel
· Keep data on all the work that the department does
· Develop schedules
· Create an ADA transition plan
· Consider doing a sewer rate study
Ms. Rollins said that no employee satisfaction survey was done, but after speaking to 25-30 percent of the people working in the public works department, she felt they all were satisfied with their jobs.
Mayor Katie Lamb gave the results of an evaluation of City Manager Ted Rogers, done by the commissioners. She said on a scale of 1-5, Mr. Rogers received a score of 4.28 and 4.55.
In other business, a public hearing of an ordinance to change the energy conservation building code ended in a vote to defer the matter to the first commission meeting in December. If approved, the energy building code would revert from what it is now, the 2012 code, to the 2009 code which is less stringent. This change would only apply to residential construction, commercial buildings would still be required to meet the 2012 codes. Andrew Morkert, building and codes director for Collegedale, recommended the change because he said the costs added to meet 2012 standards might cause developers to build outside of the city limits.
Several concerned residents disagreed with lowering the standards, citing the long-term energy and cost savings and repairs that have been needed to correct substandard houses. Commissioner Ethan White, who is also a realtor, said reverting to the lesser code would likely only help the builder because they would rarely share the cost savings with the buyer. He also noted that it is hard to retro-fit a home for energy efficiency. "We should have the consumer’s best interest in mind. It seems that we’re doing this for the developer, not the citizens," said Commissioner Phil Garver. The vote and more discussion about lowering the energy code was deferred to the next regular commission meeting.
Past Mayor of Collegedale John Turner asked the commissioners to make some changes at the recycling center. He said people do it because it matters to them and by now they understand recycling. He said that “babysitters” are not needed on Sundays and operating the recycling during the week is fine without volunteers being present.
At the next meeting, the commissioners will have a thorough discussion of a revision to the municipal code that would reduce spacing between mobile homes in an existing park, from 15 to 10 feet. Vice Mayor Tim Johnson declined to vote until he knows the purpose for the change.
Tallant Road was scheduled to be repaved in Spring 2020, but due to deteriorating conditions needs to be done this fall. The commissioners approved $109,845 for repaving 1,600 linear feet so it can be done now.
CPA Paul Johnson with Johnson, Murphey and Wright made the 2019 audit presentation to the commissioners Monday night, saying it was an excellent report.