Town Council Council adopts one-month contract
Last updated 12/21/2018 at 12:25am
Monday night’s meeting of the Odessa Town Council once again nearly filled the Odessa Public Library, as citizens appeared eager to learn as much as possible about the council’s efforts to provide police coverage for however long it takes to hire two new officers to fill the ranks of the Odessa Police Department. As we reported last week, Officer Bryce Peterson retired suddenly on November 30, and Police Chief Tom Clark was let go the following Monday, December 3, by Mayor Bill Crossley.
Steps were taken immediately by the mayor to arrange for police coverage, while at the same time the search for two new officers began. A special meeting was called for Wednesday noon on December 5 for the purpose of approving a temporary contract with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for added patrols of the Town of Odessa and the surrounding areas. At that meeting the council approved entering into a contract but deferred additional discussion to the December 10 meeting.
The shock of losing both Odessa police officers within days of one another and the speed with which an interim contract was created and submitted for approval by the town council did not set well with some Odessa residents. The December 5 meeting was attended by a standing-room-only crowd. Questions were fired at the mayor and council members by several of the spectators, who wanted to know much more about why the two officers were so suddenly gone from the department and also much more about the proposed coverage contract with Lincoln County.
This Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the council also drew a large crowd of residents. Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers also attended and explained some of the costs and challenges associated with providing coverage for the 24,000 square miles of land area within the county’s borders. Magers addressed staff shortages that his department already faces due mainly to having to compete with larger departments that can offer higher pay and more benefits.
Magers was aware of social media traffic that suggested ulterior motives on the part of the Sheriff’s Dept. He emphatically stated that his department was willing to help Odessa with its current law enforcement issues, but that his department had no desire to take over the Odessa Police Dept. or interfere with the wishes of the town to have its own police force.
Following Magers, the floor was opened for comment from those in attendance, and former Odessa police chief Helen Coubra spoke about researching other options that were available to the county. She said that if a contract with the Sheriff was determined after study to be the most cost-effective option, she would support it whole-heartedly. However, she objected to rushing into a contract without even looking into other possible options, such as hiring reserve officers from larger departments or retired officers who might be persuaded to come out of retirement for a few months to help out and augment their income.
The contract adopted Monday for the remainder of the month of December 2018 will cost the town a little over $8,000. If the contract should be extended into 2019, the monthly cost would be about $12,000/month and would include liability insurance coverage through the Sheriff’s Office policy.
Mayor Crossley said in closing that the police committee of the council would meet to study available options and begin looking at some of the enquiries that have already begun arriving after initial job postings were made online. The meeting was then adjourned. Very little of the vehement frustration that accompanied the special meeting on Dec. 5 was evident Monday night, and the meeting came to a close before 8 p.m.