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COUNCIL MEETING 11/12/19 (Law Enforcement Tax, Long-Term Street Plan, Bowling Alley Payroll, BBQ Contest, City Health Insurance)

Law Enforcement Tax Needed, CPD Chief Says
By Angie Talken 11 15 19 CT
Angie Talken CT Photo

Maples addressed the city council with his concerns on Tuesday night and asked them to agree to pay have City Attorney Robert Cowherd draft language for a proposal for the April 2020 ballot asking for a sales tax specifically earmarked for the police department. The proposed tax would be a sales tax of .25 cents per $100. "We are not asking the citizens to pay an additional tax out of their pockets, it is a sales tax that will be paid by anyone who shops in Chillicothe," Maples said. "You spend $100 at Wal-mart, the tax will be an additional .25, which would go to law enforcement." Maples said the need for additional funding is vital to continue to have an effective and well-maintained department. In the last year, the number of calls averaged by the department each day has raised over 100. The types of calls are also becoming more volatile. Maples said the nature of some of the crimes is changing, and he feels that is in direct correlation to the efforts made by officers to get into the community. To continue to provide the best safety for the community, Maples said there is an ongoing need for at least $12,000 annually for training along with ensuring officers have the best personal protection and tools. Capital Improvements to the department's fleet of vehicles needs to be placed on a rotation so new vehicles can be brought in on a rotating basis.

All five council members were in attendance at the meeting, and each spoke in support of the tax being placed on the April 2020 budget, then voted 5-0 to ask Cowherd to draft proposed ballot language to be approved at a council meeting in the near future. The language must be certified by the county clerk on Jan. 28 to be placed on the April ballot. City Administrator Darin Chappell pointed out that even if the proposed .25 sales tax increase were to pass, Chillicothe would still have a lower tax rate then neighboring towns. In the last several years, the department has worked to secure nearly $100,000 in grants in addition to the funding they receive from the city.

In a workshop before the official meeting started, council members spoke with representatives of Allgeier, Martin and Associates, an engineering consulting firm, about the possibility of developing a long-term street plan for the city. Council members said long-term plans should include the addition of curbs and gutters, address drainage issues, among other issues. Engineers said that there are steps leading up to a long-term plan including an inventory of the streets, the conditions of roadways, measuring traffic counts and loads and possible geothermal core sampling done of certain streets. Engineers also recommended that city officials seek the public's input on what they feel the needs are for the streets. Allgeier, Martin and Associates representatives said it could take up to a year to develop a master plan and cost as much as $100,000. In the city limits of Chillicothe, there are 160 miles of streets maintained by the city. Other areas like Washington Street, or U.S. Highway 65, are maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

As the workshop ended, City Administrator Darin Chappell told the council for the first time ever, the bowling alley was seeking financial assistance from the city. Chappell told council members that it was reported to him that the bowling alley was unable to make payroll due to a large insurance payment and was seeking more than $9,000 from the city to cover the owed payroll amount. As the owner of the bowling alley, the city's contract requires them to cover the expense. Chappell says they hope to re-coupe those funds in the future. City Auditor Hannah Fletcher said she would be issuing the payment on Wednesday.

By a vote of 5-0, the council approved the use and closing of Simpson Park for a Kansas City BBQ Society Sanctioned contest on June 26-27. The contest has been held in the park in the past, but due to scheduling issues with the organization, it hasn't been held here since 2017. Reed Dupy told the council that Boy Scouts had already agreed to help with clean-up; and plans are for the Knights of Columbus to sponsor the beer garden.

Chappell also led a lengthy discussion about health insurance premiums the city pays for its 75 fulltime employees. Recently, costs for the coverage went out to bid for 2020, and Chappell said he was shocked by the results. "To maintain the current level of coverage offered to employees, using the same provider, our increase is going up 48 percent," Chappell said. "We looked at other carriers, and their bids came back at more than $100,000 more than our current costs." Chappell said the jump in price can be attributed to a large number of claims the city has had through their health insurance over the last year, which he estimated to be $800,000. Insurance costs are rising for private businesses, and Chappell noted officials with Chillicothe Municipal Utilities (CMU) and the county have told him their costs are rising by at least 24 percent. Chappell told the council he was looking at a variety of other plans beyond the bids already received. "We are trying to come up with coverage that makes financial sense and still provides the best coverage for employees." The city pays 100 percent of a full-time employees premium cost for health insurance, half for dependents, and a portion of the plan's deductible. The council accepted no bids for health insurance coverage. The current coverage runs out January 1, 2020.

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