Houston & Peach

Centerville Council holds millage rate steady, addresses recent police department staffing

CENTERVILLE -- City Council voted final approval of a millage rate of 11.972 mills Tuesday.

The rate is the same as it’s been for the past several years and represents no tax increase due to city charges.

“I’m so pleased we can do this,” said Mayor John Harley referring to keeping the rate steady.

Officials have previously pointed out that property taxes may still appear higher on tax bills if county valuations of particular properties have increased.

Harley commended city department heads and workers who he said battled waste and high costs while keeping city services high.

The ordinance also mandates that ad valorem tax bills be paid by Dec. 20.

Council members also adopted policies and guidelines allowing members of its police force to take home their patrol vehicles.

Recent purchases of police vehicles were aimed at making the take-home policy possible.

The approved policy outlines assignment of vehicles and operational guidelines, like a vehicle cannot be taken to an officer’s residence if it’s in a county that doesn’t border Houston County.

The policy covers use, inspections and maintenance of vehicles as well as discipline for misuse and provisions covering an officer who is suspended.

Officials previously said allowing officers to drive their vehicles home is not only good for morale but is a cost-saving plus for the city.

“I feel like this will help what may be a decline in morale in the police department due to recent events, but that’s not the main reason we’re doing it,” said Councilman Cameron Andrews. “The main reason for passing it is that we will see an improvement in vehicle upkeep and maintenance. It will also help (the vehicles) come off the road for rest periods as opposed to their continuous around-the-clock operation. That will save us money in the long run.”

Residents again spoke to council members during the public comments portion of the meeting about recent problems at the police department which resulted in the council asking the Houston County Sheriff’s Office to manage the department for 90 days.

Paul Collins said the matter was a debacle and questioned previous placement and removal of chiefs, assistant chiefs and other officers at the department.

He called the hiring of former city councilman Ed Tucker more than being cozy, as one resident previously told council, but instead Collins said it was “cronyism.”

He asked the council what the additional cost would be to solve issues at the police department and bring in sheriff’s deputies to manage it.

Harley answered saying first that the matter was not a debacle, that use of that term was only a matter of opinion, and secondly that there would be no cost to resolve matters.

In comments at the close of the meeting, Harley commended residents who spoke out about issues for their courage and involvement and said he and council members did listen carefully to what residents said, even though they did not always agree.

In other matters, the council:

- Heard a presentation by Jim Taylor of Wellston Trees and Greens about efforts to create passive parks and trails in Warner Robins and Houston County and Centerville’s possible participation in coming projects.

- Proclaimed September as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Centerville.

To contact writer Michael W. Pannell, email mwpannell@yahoo.com.