The expense and liability issues of city employees driving city-owned vehicles to and from work was discussed by Mountain View City Council last week, with aldermen deciding to get an opinion from Arkansas Municipal League concerning the issue.
Councilman J.K. Williams recently requested a spreadsheet from City Clerk Peggy Lancaster showing the mileage and expense of each police officer driving police vehicles to and from work, and stated the council needed to review the information. The spreadsheet showed a total annual expense of $32,396. The IRS rate of 57 cents per mile totals $18,627.70. The figures included all 10 officers’ mileage expenses.
The mileage distance to the police department from each officer’s home ranges from three-tenths of a mile to to 22 miles, one way. Williams said it needed to be evaluated and he questioned if spending city money in that manner was the correct thing to do.
Councilman Ricky Shuttleworth said he had received complaints from citizens about seeing city police cars in the county.
Mayor Roger Gardner stated the police department had to have qualified officers and questioned if it was possible to only hire within the city or a certain radius.
“I’m open for options,” he stated.
Officer Sean Hickman addressed the council concerning the importance of having officers available at various locations, stating the support structure and resources were needed when major events occur.
“Times are changing,” he said, while discussing how often high speed chases now occur and other most recent events, such as the shooting death of a county officer, making arrests for drug busts, rape charges, and burglaries. He said he had problems with putting a financial number on an officer’s life.
“Threats can be stopped,” he stated, when there are officers available at various locations. He discussed how the city, county and surrounding departments work together in time of need.
Police Chief George Bethell stated officers are covered by insurance no matter where they are, as long as they have their uniform on.
He said the last time he advertised for officers he received one application, and if hiring is limited to a smaller area it would even be more of a challenge to find officers, he explained.
He said his officers work hard, come to work early, leave late, and back up other officers without question.
Hickman stated officers would either have to move, get another job or buy a vehicle to drive to work if vehicles were not supplied for officers. He explained being able to drive a company vehicle is a good incentive, especially when surrounding areas have bigger budgets to pay officers.
Gardner mentioned that some water department employees live in the county, and certified water plant employees can’t be found just anywhere,
Councilman Dana Woods stated the average mileage was 6.2 miles, one way, which he thought wasn’t that bad.
Councilman Bruce Stevens said it wouldn’t do any good to require officers to go to the office, pick up a gun and police car, and then go assist.
Williams requested the municipal league be contacted to see if officers are covered under the city’s insurance when driving to and from work.
See the complete story in the March 4, 2020 issue.