By HEATHER TOMLINSON
Although much of the city’s pay and classification remains the same with the approval of the newest amendment by city council, one department is seeing a few changes.
The Somerset Police Department, which officially gained a chief with the promotion of former assistant chief Doug Nelson in June, is seeing a shuffling of the rank-and-order system it had adhered to for years.
The most obvious change is the removal of the department’s assistant police chief position — which Nelson had kept for years as a reluctant city council hesitated to make his position as chief official.
Nelson, during an April budget workshop, pleaded with councilors to make major changes to the department to help them better deal with understaffing as a result of the city’s annexation, resulting in a larger jurisdiction for SPD, and lost recruits to other police agencies.
“The chief of police is not a good job, and it’s been dirtied up over the years,” Nelson told the council during the April 22 workshop meeting. “If you do away with the assistant chief position you can put me as whatever you want and divide the rest of this money up between my men.”
With the removal of the assistant chief’s position, money has been freed up to be distributed throughout the department, which Nelson said has 50 employees and is divided into four divisions: Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Administrative. Nelson oversees the operation of all four divisions as chief of police.
With the approval of the newest pay and classification plan, the department will have 25 police officers, three detectives, one property officer, one Spanish liaison, two data entry clerks, and one safety officer. That remains largely unchanged from the previous plan.
Also included in the newly amended plan are four captains — one for each division — and three lieutenants and three sergeants.
The old plan had included one captain, four lieutenants, and five sergeants.
Nelson said the move from one captain — a position that reported directly to the assistant chief, who reported to the chief — to four better establishes lines of communication from the four divisions to the upper tiers of the department.
“ ... I cannot effectively process information from every employee within the department without some information being produced in a formal format to facilitate upward and downward communications,” Nelson stated. “Having divisional commanders over all four divisions establishes shared responsibility and accountability throughout the department and gives all employees guidance on using an
effective chain of command, therefore effectively supervising all employees.”
The amended plan allows for a minimum salary for Nelson’s position at $45,000 yearly, with an average of $55,000 and a maximum of $62,000. That tops out at about two thousand dollars more than in the previous plan.
But that also means the department has gained anywhere between $42,500 and $52,500, which had been the salary range for assistant chief, with the removal of that position.
Other changes included in Ordinance 13-12 include the creation of a Chief Financial Officer position, which ranges between $65,000 and $75,000. The city hired Michelle King, Certified Public Accountant and former CFO with Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky, in May. Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler had stated auditors suggested to the city for the last several years that the city retain a CFO to help better deal with its complex $77 million yearly budget.
Also created are two information technology positions for the city’s energy project, with a salary range set between $40,000 and $65,000 yearly.
Somerset City Council during Monday’s meeting voted unanimously to pass the new plan, which will retroactively go into effect beginning July 1 of this year.
Councilor Jim Rutherford did have some questions about the plan’s inclusion of 249 full-time employees compared to a total available 283 positions.
“We still have a few positions that haven’t been filled but are just kind of out in limbo,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford pointed out that SPD is operating several positions down, along with the Somerset Fire Department. But he said that would still leave more than 20 positions not filled. Girdler said the city’s budget currently doesn’t allow for all of those positions to be filled, and he said to do so would require the council’s approval of another budget.
“We try to make sure our personnel meets the budget,” said Girdler. “We never intended to fill all the positions unless there’s a budget for it.”
In other news from Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting:
• Sgt. Greg Martin, with the Somerset Police Department, was presented the Danny Calhoun Award for Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Pulaski County POW/MIA Memorial Garden Foundation.
Foundation co-chairs Ernie Bach and Gene Palmer presented the award. Palmer noted the award was recently renamed after foundation member and chairperson Danny Calhoun, who passed away.
Martin has served with SPD since 1998, and he stays heavily involved in community activities, according to SPD Chief Doug Nelson, who attended Monday’s meeting in support of Martin. Nelson said Martin is involved in honor guard, the field training officer program, and the accident reconstruction unit.
“He’s just a super guy, he’s just very community-oriented,” said Nelson.
Rutherford motioned that the city recognize the award in the minutes. That motion was unanimously approved.
• Councilor Donna Hunley requested that the city donate toward travel expenses for three local youth Babe Ruth baseball teams. The teams recently emerged the winners from state tournaments for their categories. The 13-year-old team traveled to Indiana, the 14-year-old team went to Illinois, and the 15-year-old team went to Ohio. All three teams left earlier this week.
The council unanimously voted to give each team $1,000 for travel expenses, totaling $3,000.
Councilor Jimmy Eastham noted that teams were made up of city and county players alike.
“We can be proud of these men and their coaches,” said Jimmy Eastham.
“That’s a fine representation of Somerset and our community, both city and county,” said Girdler.
• Councilor Pat Bourne commended Nelson and SPD on their coverage at the Master Musicians Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on July 19 and 20.
“Overall ... it was a very successful weekend,” Bourne said.