Mississippi County Street Crime Unit forming
Manila Wayne Wagner introduced Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook prior to the April 24 city council meeting.
Sheriff Cook expressed his appreciation to Manila officers and Chief James Skinner for working with his department on a recent drug bust south of Manila.
“My efforts when I first came into office was to concentrate on a drug task force,” Sheriff Cook said. “There have been several successful operations on a large scale including ICE. Mississippi County has 15 towns and they are all important to me.”
Sheriff Cook went on to talk about a new group forming called Mississippi County Sheriff's Department Street Crimes Unit. The partnership will join the sheriff's department and the local police departments in the smaller towns. He said CID will work with the local departments.
“We will go after the people who are kicking in doors, breaking in our vehicles and stealing us blind,” he said.
Sheriff Cook expressed his appreciation to Manila Chief James Skinner, Mayor Wagner and City Attorney Wes Wagner who will be working with them on the Street Crimes Unit. He said Leachville Police Department will also be a part of the new unit.
“I know sometimes you feel your communities have been neglected,” Sheriff Cook said. “All of us working together can make it happen. Call me anytime. I appreciate you all.”
“We are willing to do anything we can do to make Manila safer for our wives and our children,” Mayor Wagner said.
Fire Chief Tracey Reinhart addressed the council by thanking them for their support of the fire department. He said they appreciate the support from the city and the community.
Chief Reinhart said the department needs six sets of turnout gear (coats and pants). Turnout gear is what the firefighters wear into the fires. The total cost for the six sets is $9,133. He explained regulations require turnout gear to be replaced every 10 years for the safety of the firefighters.
The council voted unanimously to purchase the new gear. They all expressed their appreciation to the firefighters and service they do.
Chief Reinhart said they had 25 firemen last year and is now down to 22, which includes the two police officers who serve on both departments.
“We have more firefighters working out of town than we once did,” Chief Reinhart said. “We will need to add at least five more members. Captain Sonny Dill wants to talk to you about BDUs (uniforms) for the fire department. Our firemen are very conservative. I would appreciate you to listen to what Captain Dill has to say. He has been a great example in our department. I hear from people all of the time about how professional our firefighters are. I agree, they are professional. They give their time to go through training just as if they were full time firefighters."
Mayor Wagner pointed out to the council there may be a need for additional turn-out gear as more members are added to the department.
Chief Reinhart said they have been working with county judge and the town of Etowah and will be taking in the areas covered by the Milligan Ridge Fire Department. There may be some extra ACT 833 funds and a few more firefighters from the Milligan Ridge area.
“I was on the fire department for over 20 years and I couldn't do what these guys do today,” Councilman Donnie Wagner said. "They spend a lot of time going to classes and training at their own expense."
"We know what you guys do," Councilman Steven Milligan said. "Last year you saw a need for equipment and training for a grain bin rescue and you took it upon yourselves to make it happen."
Chief Reinhart said the department raised the money through generous donations and fundraisers.
Captain Dill talked about the dedication of the Manila firefighters. They take their own time for the necessary training to do the best job they can do.
"We are fortunate to have three certified in hazmat," he said. "It is more difficult to get volunteers today. People are busy. I am over the maintenance of trucks and uniforms. We are volunteers but that doesn't lower our standards. When we are out in the community at events like the chili cook-off, visiting the schools, or the upcoming farmers market, it is hard to hold to a dress standard when it has to come out of the firemen's own pockets."
Dill wore the basic blue BDU dress uniform. He said the set would include two shirts, one long sleeve and short sleeve, and pants. The uniform is sturdy and made for work. The men and women would be responsible for their own footwear.
“When men and women look good they feel good," Captain Dill said. "We are setting the pace for other communities. We have a very active and well trained group. We have a city that supports us. We have firefighters who are willing to train. The expense of the training and travel is out of their own pockets. We have a lot of young guys on the department and they are dedicated."
The estimated cost for the pants and short sleeve shirt is $24.99 each and the long sleeve shirt is $25.50. Captain Dill asked the council to consider purchasing BDUs for the firefighters.
The council voted to give Mayor Wagner the authority to work with Chief Reinhart and Captain Dill in moving forward with the purchase of the BDUs.
Woody Townsend with the Manila Pilots Association updated the council on airport projects. He said a flag had been placed behind the terminal building. There is an issue with the rotating beacon. It is old and they cannot find parts to match. Townsend talked about applying for a 50/50 grant for pilot control lighting system, paint and a beacon light.
Representative Johnny Rye spoke briefly to the council about some of the legislature passed including exemption of income tax for veterans; tax cut for those making less than $21,000 a year; and an increase from $6,500 to $6,800 per student.
Rep. Rye asked the council to contact him and share their opinion on the proposed internet tax. He said it is estimated to generate a lot of money and he wants to make sure it would help the smaller cities.
In other business:
*Mayor Wagner talked about future street paving. Paving will be needed at the new street by the nursing home on the south side of Roseland Apartments. He said there is a section between the fire station to the transfer station to be paved. He also said there is a need for spot paving. If the road bed is ready at the new subdivision under construction by Bobby Walton it can be put on the list.
*Once school is out, Wagner hopes to get with FEMA and start sewer repair.
*Council member William Barnhart had been asked if the city could shorten the easements for 50 foot lots around town allowing new construction. Mayor Wagner said anyone interested in building can bring the plans to the city council and ask for a waiver. He said he had never known the council to turn anyone down who has a good plan and there are no objections from the surrounding homeowners.
*City treasurer Cathy Huddleston said the city had received notice the 2016 audit was complete and there were no findings. All of the council will receive a copy of the final audit. Mayor Wagner said they have not received the final 2015 audit result.