PIEDMONT — The Police Department will soon get new wheels while its dispatchers will get raises, city officials approved on Tuesday.
The Piedmont City Council voted to spend $43,500 to buy three slightly used Dodge Charger police cars. It also voted to give a $1 an hour raise to the Piedmont Police Department’s six dispatchers, for a total of $10,816 in additional annual salary spending.
The council approved the spending during its regular Tuesday meeting.
Money for the patrol vehicles was already set aside in the budget.
“We had cars in the budget that haven’t been purchased the last couple of years because they couldn’t find what they wanted or for other reasons,” Mayor Bill Baker said.
However, the used car purchases will be considerably cheaper than the city’s first plan to spend $74,000 for two new vehicles. The three used vehicles all have less than 50,000 miles and will come equipped with lights, sirens, and most other police car equipment.
Chief Freddie Norton said the vehicles are needed because most of the department’s cars are at least 11 years old.
“They’re old, it’s time to move on,” Norton said.
Norton said the dispatcher raises will help the department hold onto its personnel. Most of the department’s dispatchers currently earn between $10 and $10.60 an hour, he said.
“This will help us keep them here,” Norton said of the raises. “We have been getting them trained and then they’ll leave to earn more money somewhere else.”
The city acquired the money for the raises more than two years ago through a deal between the Piedmont Fire and Rescue Squad and the city of Ohatchee.
Ohatchee started paying the Rescue Squad to respond to emergency calls. The Rescue Squad then agreed to pay $11,000 of that money annually to Piedmont to give the dispatchers a raise. The $11,000 never was allocated to the dispatchers but instead remained in the city General Fund.
During the work session before the meeting, the council heard a proposal from Cheaha Regional Head Start to use the Bethune Community Center to house its Piedmont programs.
The Cheaha Head Start is a federally funded nonprofit that provides early childhood care and pre-kindergarten services to a six-county region in northeastern Alabama.
Kelly Mumper, director of Cheaha Head Start, said the nonprofit needed a new Piedmont location because the modular buildings it was currently using were too old and too expensive to maintain.
“We want to be a core part of the community, so we’ve looked at your community center,” Mumper said.
Under the proposed deal, Head Start would lease part of the building for $1 a year. Head Start would pay to upgrade much of the building to meet federal standards and would pay utility and maintenance costs.
The council agreed to vote on the proposal at its next meeting.