The council voted to create the position during its Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting with Council Members Harry Moon and Marc Johnson opposing.
“We’ve got so many cases that need investigating,” said Phillip Roberts who initially made the motion to create the new position. “Randy (Mayorga) is swamped. He has got a lot more than what we can do.”
Centre Police Chief Kirk Blankenship, Roberts said, had expressed interest in moving Patrolman Jeff Bryant into the new investigator position and posting the full-time patrolman position.
“The city council needs to create a second investigator’s position,” said Centre Mayor Tony Wilkie. “City policy only has one. We need to create that position in our city policy to reflect two investigators. All we need is a letter from the chief with that individual’s name (to be moved into the investigator’s position.)”
The council, Wilkie said, would then advertise for the patrolman’s position.
Approximately one year ago, the council agreed to allow Officer Will Clark to be part of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office’ Drug Task Force. The council asked about the possibility of bringing him back to help out with these cases.
Chief Blankenship said they could bring Clark back but noted he is doing an excellent job for the task force and also for the city.
“Just last year alone, Will worked 110 cases in the city,” said Blankenship. “We could bring him back but it would hurt us with the drug investigations in my opinion.”
Looking at it from a business viewpoint, Councilman Johnson questioned the need of adding another investigator position while the city’s population of roughly 3,500 remains steady with no significant growth.
“In our business, you only increase employees when you increase your business,” said Johnson. “I am not sure whether we have enough people to justify another police officer.”
Blankenship noted that city officers worked a major homicide case in November and continues to investigate that case and that other cases are still on the increase.
“I am extremely proud of our guys for the homicide they worked,” said Blankenship. “They did good and I have been involved in several.”
“I want to help everybody in the city with the cases but it is unfortunate that you have to put some on the back burner,” said Blankenship. “And everybody‘s case, to me is important, whether it is a kid getting bicycle stolen or a homicide.”
“I think too with the chief’s leadership we have actually taken on things now that we didn’t do prior to his arrival,” said Mayor Wilkie. “Instead of allowing another agency to do it, if it happens in the city, we need to take the lead investigation on it and that is what is actually being done now. If we get to a point where we can’t do it, we turn it over to a higher agency, but right now with the murder investigation, I think we have very well proven that the Centre PD was the lead investigating department. We had Mark Hopwood from Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. He was here as a resource unit for the Centre PD. With that being said, we have taken on the responsibility of what we have to do as a police department for the citizens of Centre.”
The council approved creating the new investigator position and posting the new patrolman position.
During the meeting, Mayor Wilkie introduced David Seals with Foothills Enterprises, the new Mahindra Tractor dealership in Centre who is working in partnership with his father, Billy Seals. The business is located at 1226 East Main Street in the former Kubota Tractor location.
“I wanted everybody to meet David and welcome him and his family to our city,” said Wilkie. “If you have not been by, I didn’t count, but I think you’ve got more than 50 tractors on the lot, plus implements. That is a lot of equipment new to our city. We want to welcome you.”
“We will be here as long as you will have us,” said Seals.
After a few recent heated meetings among council members, Wilkie commented that he appreciated “how everybody beginning to work together in a more admirable fashion and that is the way things need to work.”
Council Member Phillip Roberts suggested that the council consider hold an hour-long work session prior to its regular council meetings held the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m.
Council Member Bess Yarbrough gave an update on recent park and recreation board meetings.
“We have two board members whose terms have expired and we need to contact them to see if they are interested in continuing,” said Yarbrough. “We also discussed a little bit about hiring a part-time field supervisor. We wanted to get with you and see because it won’t be long now.
In other business, the council:
-Re-appointed Cindy James as Centre’s representative on the Cherokee County Industrial Development Board.
-Met with Vickie Robinson with the Cherokee County Herald and agree to purchase an ad for the Herald’s upcoming Review and Forecast Edition for $275.94.