Belle aldermen cancel police contract, utilize early-out savings to purchase Side-by-Side

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 9/30/22

BELLE — Belle aldermen took action on Sept. 21 to dissolve the Maries County Sheriff’s police services contract during a budget workshop that was advertised on Sept. 14 at City Hall and …

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Belle aldermen cancel police contract, utilize early-out savings to purchase Side-by-Side

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BELLE — Belle aldermen took action on Sept. 21 to dissolve the Maries County Sheriff’s police services contract during a budget workshop that was advertised on Sept. 14 at City Hall and both of the city’s Facebook pages with budget review listed as its only agenda item. No one from the Maries County Sheriff’s Department was present during the discussion or vote.

The Maries County Advocate left a recorder at the meeting to report on the budget discussion. Agenda items not advertised on the city’s Facebook page or to the newspaper were Resolution for the Rock Island Trail, purchase of a Side-by-Side, certification, and closed session for personnel.

During the discussion about the police services contract, the recorder was turned off one hour and 50 minutes into the meeting and turned back on as the board prepared to vote. An estimated 20 minutes of discussion, based on the board’s self-reported start and end times, is missing. Shuffling and a muffled question can be heard before the device is turned off. 

After the following discussion, the board voted 4-0 to “terminate the contract with the Maries County Sheriff’s Department as soon as possible. The motion was made by Alderman Jeanette Struemph and seconded by Alderman Adam Padgett. It passed with a 4-0 vote.

Discussion began about the purchase of a Side-by-Side that was approved with a 4-0 vote in March 2022, by the previous board. The only board member still sitting since March is Struemph.

Belle Mayor Daryl White, Jr. began the conversation about the Side-by-Side. He suggested the city cover the cost of the purchase by canceling the Maries County Sheriff’s Department police services contract early to have funds available to purchase the Side-by-Side. The recreational vechicle was then purchased with $18,000 in the city’s reserve fund.

“The Side-by-Side is $18,189,” White began. “I was understood by Josh (Seaver, former mayor) and everybody that they was allowing us $2,400 trade-in on a lawn mower. Now it’s $400.”

Public Works Director Tony Baretich said the $2,400 on the trade-in is what the city was originally told, but the dealer isn’t going to honor it.

The mower was primarily used to drive around while spraying weeds.

Padgett asked if the city didn’t need the mower regardless of whether or not it was taken in as a trade-in and Baretich agreed.

“It would be great to take home,” Baretich said.

Baretich suggested bidding it out with surplus rather than trading it.

“There’s no way we could accept $400-$500 for the mower. We could get more for it in scrap than that,” White said. “I would like to keep it with the surplus.”

Alderman Barb Howarth suggested that until they get their budget settled, they don’t spend more.

Struemph is the only member of the previous administration that is still sitting on the board.

“We kinda had this all thought out,” Struemph said.

“Yeah, but the money is not there,” Howarth said.

White said he wasn’t sure when he came back on the board exactly, but guessed it was between 60 and 90 days previous. He was appointed to former alderman Ken Stanfield’s seat in June.

“We’ve had about $150,000 go through that department,” White said. “I am worried about that, I will be honest with ya. I am not pointing a finger or anything, but we have a lot of year left and that is what scares me.”

White commented that the purchase of the excavator, land and adding new employees have added up.

“If you figure roughly $140,000 and that scares me without our budget,” White continued. “I understand you guys already had this figured out and I trust you 100 percent. There has been a lot of expenses since March when you guys discussed that and I’m worried about it.

“But I’m a give and a take kind of person, and if you guys want the Side-by-Side and think we need the Side-by-Side — I have my reservations about the Side-by-Side or the perception of the Side-by-Side. I mean, I have a Side-by-Side and I know how handy it is and I use it. It’s an asset, it’s a tool, but I am not sure the public would see it so much as an asset but as a toy. In order to justify it in my mind, in order to spend $18,000 we need to cut $18,000 somewhere.

“I have an idea about that if you guys want to listen to it. I know this is a budget meeting, so I know that you have a special meeting. It’s costing us about $16,000 to $18,000 a month to keep the sheriff’s department. It takes 90 days to get rid of the sheriff’s department, which (the contract) is up in February anyway. So if we was to commit now to get rid of the sheriff’s department we could gain about two months which would be about $30,000 to the good.”

Padgett asked for clarification.

“So you are saying we get rid of them in December as opposed to —,” Padgett began.

White said it takes 90 days to get rid of the sheriff’s department contract, so it would end 90 days from notification.

“If we do that sooner than later — I mean if we wait ‘till October, November there is no use in doing it because we are going to be in February,” White said. “I would like to sit down at the breakfast table and justify where I go this $18,000. It’s just hard for me to tell somebody — people are more informed in the city than what we think. They know we spent $80,000 on an excavator which was a big, red flag for a long time. They know that we had two summer help people, they know we added a full-time position.”

White said the city had a good summer with plenty of employees.

“But we don’t have a bottomless money pit and we can’t keep spendin’ like we’re spendin’,” he continued. “We’ve been on a runaway train lately, but everything we’ve done is needed.”

Struemph said the $20,000 from the purchase of a city-abandoned alleyway to a local citizen was supposed to go towards the purchase of the excavator.

White agreed but added that the city incurred some legal expense on the sale as well so they didn’t end up with the full amount because the lawyer will probably charge them.

“I am expecting to pay $1,200 from that,” White said.

Padgett asked if they had any idea what it would take to get the Belle Police Department going.

“Can we do it in that time frame is my only concern,” Padgett asked.

Howarth said Police Chief Joe Turnbough will need help to get the department off of the ground. White agreed but said he thinks it can be done.

“To start a police department we are going to have to have bare bones for a year or two,” he said. “We are going to have to be reserved in what we spend. We have a lot of stuff coming up right now.”

White mentioned that the city is setting aside funds for matching as they have grants written for the Rock Island Trail and a water infrastructure overhaul that requires a financial match if approved. The infrastructure project requires a $120,000 match and has been set aside from the city’s ARPA funds.

“One — a $1 million dollar budget doesn’t take long,” White said. “The (ARPA money) is sitting there to cover the expense — now if we don’t get the grant for the water thing then the money comes back to us,” White said.

Baretich said if they don’t get the grant for the water project, they will need to begin working on the projects on their own. White agreed they would need to have to start buying “bandaids.”

Steering the conversation back to the Side-by-Side, Baretich said the original thought was to trade the lawn mower in and use some of the funds from the surplus items to go towards the  Side-by-Side cost, adding that the surplus items are primarily old public works equipment.

“Right, but what we are selling, I think is going to be very minimal,” White said. “We are going to get enough money out of our surplus to have a Christmas party.”

White said they have a lot of year left. What happens if they blow the engine in a dump truck? Restarting the Belle Police Department will also need another vehicle and another deputy.

“Are we going to try to speak with Maries County about some of the equipment that they bought?” Padgett asked.

White said yes, but he doesn’t think they are going to release any of their equipment. Turnbough said Major Scott John was asking him a lot of questions earlier in the evening about the contract. He was not present during the conversation.

“He’s been asking me a lot of questions as to what we are going to do and I said honestly, I don’t know,” Turnbough said. “I don’t know if we are going to do the contract or not do the contract. Or maybe do a two-year plan. I don’t know how much money we have.”

Turnbough says he knows he is going to need a couple of decent vehicles, fully equipped. 

“He told me tonight he could give me two vehicles, fully equipped, fully loaded,” Turnbough said. “I don’t know what we are going to do for dispatch just yet because Osage County said they would do it for $4,000 a year like they used to, but I don’t know what it is going to cost us to set up because he don’t even know if they can do it yet because I guess our frequency got used for another deal.”

Padgett asked if the cars were a sure thing and Turnbough said no, John said they could discuss cost.

“One thing that concerns me if you are going to get rid of your used cars it is going to be the trouble cars out of the fleet,” White said. “If he’s got 10 cars he’s not going to sell us two of his good cars. We’ve got to watch on that.”

White reminded the group they were going to have to “start with pretty bare bones.”

Turnbough was asked if he found any of his former computer equipment at the substation and he said he thought one of the monitors might have been his, however, the sheriff’s deputy insisted it all belonged to Maries County.

“One of them is still back there and I believe they have it hooked up to somethin’ and the other I believe is settin’ up front,” Turnbough said. “I went to set my computer up today and he’s like you need to talk to Scott.”

White said he couldn’t find an agreement on the building.

“They are using the building for free and we are providing all of the electric and stuff,” White said.

Struemph said that was discussed and the sheriff’s department was supposed to take over the bills and such because they were using the building.

“We figured this stuff out over a year ago — we are paying for this stuff? Why! They’re supposed to be paying for this,” Struemph said.

The original contract did not mention the building, however, Struemph said that it was discussed at the last contract renewal. White said he couldn’t find anything in writing.

“So you need to adjust the bill and say at the end of the 90 days this is what you owe,” Howarth said.

Padgett said he liked White’s proposal, especially if it would save the city money and takes care of something that they were already obligated to.

“The only thing I don’t know is can we get it done in that time frame,” Padgett asked.

White said he is a “sink or swim kind of guy.”

“I think we either make it or we don’t,” White said.

Struemph said she isn’t meaning to say anything bad towards Maries County, but she has noticed things.

“I have noticed in the last six months that — I don’t want you to go draggin’ this back —,” Struemph was cut off as the recorder was turned off one hour and 50 minutes into the meeting and did not resume until 21 minutes before the board went into closed. The open session went from 6:30 to 9 p.m. according to White and others present.

The second file resumed with White.

“What we need to do is decide if we want the Side-by-Side or do not want the Side-by-Side,” White said. “Or maybe we should decide how we are going to pay for the Side-by-Side first.”

Struemph suggested dividing the cost of the Side-by-Side into all six departments so they can all six use the equipment.

White referenced that City Treasurer Charro Reasor suggested payments. Struemph said that they looked into payments on the excavator. White said they are making payments on the excavator.

Baretich said he asked about payments on the Side-by-Side in March because they had a good deal, but because the city was getting government pricing, they wouldn’t finance it at the low-interest rate.

“There was a motion to take the funds out of Money Market,” Baretich said.

“Which is our saving account,” White said. “I really hate dipping into our savings account for toys.”

Struemph said they had a plan to put the money back if they went that route and White said “if they get it put back.”

“We were allocating to put it back,” Struemph said.

The Side-by-Side will be $3,031 divided evenly between water, sewer, streets, park, police and general for $18,189 total.

White asked for a motion.

“In order for us to make a motion to get rid of the sheriff’s department as soon as possible I think we are also going to need a counter motion that we are going to have to hire a deputy,” White said. “I don’t know which one we need to go first.”

Aldermen said to vote to get rid of Maries County first.

“You guys are alright with the ideal to purchase a Side-by-Side to purchase across the board in town?” White asked and they said yes.

Struemph said she would make the motion to cease the contract with Maries County. Padgett seconded the motion.

“I will talk to Maries County to see if we can cease it quicker than the 90 days, but 90 days is the tops,” White said.

The motion passed with all in favor.

“Do I have a motion to hire a full-time deputy,” White said.

Alderman Kayla Bray made a motion to hire Jerry Colborn as a deputy full-time starting immediately at the reserve pay ($20) that they hired him at during the Sept. 13 meeting. Howarth seconded the motion that passed with a 4-0 vote.

“Can I have a motion to buy the John Deere Gator XUV835M for $18,189?” White asked.

He asked if they wanted to make monthly payments. Struemph asked if they could make payments. Baretich said he didn’t know, but even if they could, John Deere’s interest rate has went up.

Discussion ensued among everyone if they should pull funds from the Money Market account. White said they had $18,000 in reserve in Capital Improvements so they would just purchase it.

Padgett made the motion, Struemph seconded, and the motion passed with a 4-0 vote.

White asked the board if they wanted to talk about purchasing a second police car for the second officer and the board agreed.

“New, used car or do you want me to get options on everything this week?” White asked.

Struemph asked for options on everything and they would consult with Turnbough.

Padgett asked Turnbough for a list of everything the Belle Police Department will need to be up and running on its own.

“Is it possible to get a list of what you think you need?” Padgett asked. “I mean we’ve already — I’ve committed to way more than what I wanted to commit to.”

White said he wanted to stress again that it needs to be bare bones.

“We need a list of what is absolutely required,” Padgett said.

Turnbough said he would get a list together.

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