By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Town of Rockford finds itself currently without local law enforcement following the resignations of the part-time police chief and three part-time officers.
However, following discussion and action taken during Tuesday evening’s Town Council meeting, Rockford will be restructuring the department and hiring one full-time officer rather than hiring part-time officers again.
During the meeting, with all council members present, Mayor Scott White stated that the town had received four letters of resignation. He said that former Police Chief Jamie Hammond resigned because of finding a better job making more money and said that the others “trickled down from there.”
During discussion, White mentioned that some of the reasons voiced for resigning included other job opportunities with better pay and gas prices being too high to make it worth the drive to Rockford and only working eight hours.
The council unanimously approved accepting the letters of resignation effective September 16.
Following that action, the council then discussed how to proceed with the hiring process. White stated that the part-time officers started at $16 per hour, adding that if the town is going to retain someone then it has to pay better.
Also for consideration, White stated that the town was paying a total of $48,223.55 per year for those four part-time police officers.
In deciding how it would like to proceed, the council discussed possibly having a full-time officer and paying $18 or $18.50 per hour. Council members and White also mentioned potentially running an ad until the position is filled rather than only running an ad for two weeks.
Following discussion, the council unanimously approved hiring one full-time officer with a starting pay of $19 per hour, with it being mentioned that this would still be less than what the town was paying the four part-time officers.
Regarding the letters of resignation, Chief Hammond’s letter dated August 29 stated that he had accepted a position with the State of Alabama as a special investigator for the Department of Corrections, saying that is a step forward in his career. He further stated that the salary and benefits offered for that position would make it possible for him to only work one job, allowing him more time off to focus on family and personal needs.
The letter stated that his resignation would be effective September 16 and that he would do his best in helping the town transition someone else into the position or help with finding a candidate if necessary.
In part, his letter also read, “…Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be the police chief for the Town of Rockford. I believe that we have moved in a better direction than where things were when [I] started here; we have been fortunate enough to add a couple officers and improve our fleet even with a small budget. …I would again like to thank you for the time I’ve had with the town, and I hope it continues to move forward. I have made my decision after careful consideration and just believe this will be the best direction for me and my family.”
Jeremy Ogletree’s letter of resignation was dated August 30 and was addressed to Chief Hammond.
Ogeltree’s letter read, “This letter is to inform you of my official notice of resignation from Rockford Police Department. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve under your command. I have recently been made aware that you will be leaving the department as chief of police. Due to your decision to leave the department and my loyalty to you, it would be a good time for me to exit when you do. Chief, thank you for all that you have done for me and will in the future.”
The other two letters of resignation from Derrick Coley and Archie Maggard were both dated September 3 and also addressed to Hammond.
Coley’s letter read, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve under [your] command for the citizens of Rockford. I have recently been made aware that you (Chief Hammond) will be leaving the department as chief of police and the intent of the Town of Rockford to restructure the police department. Due to your decision to leave and the news of the Town of Rockford to restructure would be a good time for me to leave also. Again, thank you for the opportunity to [serve] the citizens of Rockford. Chief, thank you for all that you have done for me, and I wish you nothing but the best in the future.”
Maggard’s letter of resignation was quite similar, reading, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve under your command for the people of Rockford. I have recently been made aware of your (Chief Hammond) resignation and the intent of the Town of Rockford to restructure the police department. Due to this news, I believe this is a good time for me to exit. I wish the Town of Rockford all the good fortune in the future. Again, thank you for the opportunity. Chief, thank you for all you have done for me, and I wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.”
Separate from the meeting, in addressing rumors White provided a copy of the signed part-time lunch break policy for the town’s part-time employees.
That document reads, “Part-time workers lunch: When we work part time we do not get paid for lunch on company time. If you are coming from another job and need a lunch, that is OK. You must work your shift and work the extra time you took for lunch or deduct it from your time noted on time sheet. Failure to do so is stealing time and could result in termination.”
In other business, during the meeting the council also heard from four applicants for the two open Utilities Board positions following the terms expiring for Raymond Abrams’ and Katherleen Larmon’s positions on the board.
As such, it was time for the council to appoint two members to the board or reappoint the existing members. Mayor White stated that there were four applicants and that they had been interviewed, but that he was unable to attend those interviews.
Therefore, he asked each applicant to step to the lectern, tell a little about themselves and answer his single question about what they can bring to the table for the Utilities Board.
The four applicants were Abrams and Larmon, both of Equality, and Burt Coffman and Darrell Cardwell, both of Equality. Each of the four introduced themselves, gave some information on their background and any applicable experience and answered White’s question.
Following that, the floor was open for nominations to the board. Councilmember Robert Smith nominated Abrams and Coffman, and Councilmember Cordarius Lee nominated Abrams and Larmon.
With no other nominations being made, those nominated then came to a vote.
The council unanimously approved reappointing Abrams to the Utilities Board. It also approved appointing Coffman to the board by a majority vote of 3-1, with Lee opposing the vote.
Councilmember Shirley Ogle abstained from voting because of a personal conflict.
In other business, the council also unanimously approved setting a time limit of 4 minutes for speakers during meetings.
Additionally, Mayor White reported that the town will be receiving a $5,000 grant towards a playground project thanks to the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation & Development Council.
Also during the meeting the town heard from Kasey Pair with the Tri-County Children Advocacy Center, explaining that the center now serves Coosa County rather than the one in Talladega. She reviewed information on the center and programs, stating that they serve children who have been victimized in various situations.
She stated that they have seen 50 cases of child abuse in Coosa County so far this year, with the majority of those – about 80 to 85% – being sex abuse cases.
During her presentation, Pair also stated that the center has three offices and covers five counties, but said that the funding by the state was cut by $100,000 over the last two years.
She asked the town to possibly consider their center in their budget. Following her presentation, White said that the town would consider it.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Rockford Town Council will be held at 6 p.m. October 18.