BELLE — Belle Board of Aldermen voted all in favor on Aug. 29 to hire former marshal Joe Turnbough as chief of police until the April 2023 election, effective immediately. Mayor Daryl White Jr. …
BELLE — Belle Board of Aldermen voted all in favor on Aug. 29 to hire former marshal Joe Turnbough as chief of police until the April 2023 election, effective immediately. Mayor Daryl White Jr. says this is the first step in the plan to reinstate the Belle Police Department.
White explained the decision in a Friday interview and dispelled concerns and questions.
“My whole reason to move from a sheriff’s department to a police department is that I want our law enforcement to be more intertwined with the community,” White said.
The Maries County Sheriff’s Department is currently contracted to provide police services to the city. The contract is extended on a yearly basis and is in its third year. Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman estimates the cost of the contract will be around $200,000 in February 2023 with raises.
White has always supported reinstating the local police department. Since taking office, he has been working numbers to see how much it would take to bring back the local department.
“I came up with around $45,000 (for the marshal salary),” White said. “You are going to get a better person and interest around $45,000 and I wanted to get interest from other towns. I thought we could get a good applicant if we (made the salary) more.”
The marshal position previously made about $36,500 salaried. Rumors that Turnbough will receive a salary of around $52,000 annually are not entirely true.
“He is not on salary,” White said. “He is making $25 an hour for now. He is not going to make $52,000 a year. Overtime has to be approved (if the hours are used outside of extenuating circumstances).”
Turnbough will only be employed as chief of police for eight months which will result in the opportunity to make between $32,000-$35,000 before the 2023 election.
White explained that when they advertised for a chief of police in Maries, Osage, and Gasconade counties, they hoped a higher salary would encourage interest, but it still doesn’t compare to other elected offices nearby.
“Even at $50,000, we can’t compare to the sheriff’s department,” White said, referring to the sheriff’s $78,000 annual salary set by the state.
White explained the difference between Turnbough’s pay as chief of police and the expected change to the marshal’s salary.
“Basically because of what we have to do the next eight months is outside of the scope of marshal,” White said. “There is lots of new and he is not going to be here a full year, so there is no vacation and few benefits. He is entitled to a couple more dollars.”
Turnbough will have no administrative power and will not have any deputies under his authority. White said he does expect Turnbough to enforce nuisance violations.
The board’s decision to hire a chief of police, a position that citizens in Belle overwhelmingly voted down in April, stems from being able to adjust the pay scale and be able to ensure that work gets done.
“This is a deputy, not a marshal position,” White said. “He is employed by the city and answers to the board. Joe’s position is basically a chief deputy who answers to the city council. He is on a probationary period between now and April. He can be suspended or fired at any time. He has no authority to spend money without permission. It is a city-run police department.”
White said the chief of police position doesn’t need to continue after a marshal is elected next April.
“People think we are going to try to not elect the marshal,” White said. “We are not doing that. I would never take the vote away from the people.”
The board appointed Turnbough to the position with a 4-0 vote, Alderman Jeanette Struemph made the motion that was seconded by Alderman Kayla Bray. Turnbough took the position effective immediately, but on an emergency basis until after his two week’s notice is up Sept. 13 at the Phelps County Hospital.
White says he is aware of the previous concerns against Turnbough that resulted in the eventual disbanding of the Belle Police Department.
“A lot of concerns I had previously I am absolutely concerned about now,” he said. “I understand the baggage Joe brings with him. The aldermen are bringing Joe back and one of the comments I have made — I will explain in February if Joe proves himself. I want to be able to say ‘yes, I would vote for this man’ or that ‘in my opinion, I would not vote for this man.’ I have made it clear.”
Reinstating the Belle Police Department will take time and a plan that is not entirely available yet, but White is working on it.
“Since I become alderman a couple of months ago, I was trying to figure out how to bring the department back,” White said. “I would like a marshal and two deputies, two police cars — I am thinking around the $200,000 mark.”
White said he has been told that the community cannot afford its own police department and his response is, “We can’t afford to pay Maries County either.”
Maries County has around six deputies and are at least three deputies short of being fully staffed according to the sheriff.
“You won’t find a department around here that is fully staffed,” Heitman said.
Sheriff’s deputies rotate inside the Belle Division.
“They cover us, but we have a lot of different deputies,” White said. “As a two or three or four-man police department, with proper police officers in the community, they can be known by everyone by name. If they are the same officers all of the time.”
He said he appreciates what the sheriff’s department has done for the community over the last three years.
“I am not running the sheriff’s department down for the service they provided the last three years,” White said. “But in return, the sheriff’s department promised $80,000 a year in fine revenue and this year we got $13,000 in the city’s bank account, $26,0000 total.”
The sheriff’s department contract says the county receives half of the fine revenue.
White said he would also like to see the Maries County R-2 School District school resource officer contract go to the city’s police department instead of county.
“I absolutely want our kids protected,” he said. “If the sheriff’s office didn’t do it, we would figure out a way to fund it. I would love to see Belle PD in the school.”
White said the city needs to be more personable and able to protect its own.
“I don’t know any deputies and I really think I love the idea that any one of our police officers could walk into the little league game at the park and everyone would know their names,” White said. “If we have a Belle police officer dedicated to the community and we are at the fair and a kid is in trouble they might recognize that guy and ask for help.”
He would like to see a comeback of a local officer assisting with funeral processions and leading the parade.
“Maries County has hundreds of miles to patrol and I really think they are doing the best they can do, I just think we can do better,” White said. “From a mayor’s perspective if I am allocating $200,000 (for the police department) I want to allocate it locally and provide the most coverage that I can.”
Part of the plan to bring back the Belle Police Department is giving the marshal’s office a new salary base via city ordinance, which must be done at least six months before the election. The marshal position salary is currently it is regulated by ordinance at $100 a month.
White has a list of qualifications he would like to change or add to the position requirements.
“We need to change that you have to live in Belle to be marshal,” he began. “You should be post-certified to run for the job. We should have people lining up to get this job it should be a good job.”
Ideally, the Belle Police Department would be back up and running by February 2023, which is when the Maries County Sheriff’s service contract is up for renewal.
“There might be options we can explore,” White added. “Maybe we could work together for a year, maybe for five years. Phase them out 20 or 30 percent at a time.”
The sheriff’s department hired at least two deputies and bought two additional vehicles to assist Belle with its police service. White said the city may be interested in purchasing some of the equipment.
During the Aug. 29 meeting, the board also hired Charro Reasor as treasurer/prosecuting attorney secretary at $18 an hour with a 4-0 vote, Struemph made the motion and Alderman Barb Howarth seconded.
Notice of the closed session meeting was posted on Aug. 24 on the door at the Lonnie Feeler Memorial Building and City Hall. The meeting was not announced on the city’s Facebook page, however, White said they plan to continue posting notices as soon as they hire a website/Facebook administrator.
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