Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen presented members of Portsmouth City Council with a potential solution to under staffing in the Portsmouth Police Department Monday night as part of the City Manager’s Conference meeting.
Police Cheif Rob Ware was present along with several officers. Ware and the other officers explained that the department is so short staffed that they are having a hard time covering shifts despite officers working mandatory overtime. The department currently has five openings and two people out on extended medical leave.
Ware has found that people are not even showing up to take the civil service examination. 30 people took the last exam, of which 13 passed.
However, of those, many do not have peace officer certification, and none have completed drug testing, physicals, background checks or polygraph testing, which will further decrease the options. Ware also stated the the department’s retention is not the problem. The difficulty is in hiring new officers to replace those who have retired.
As a result, they have presented the City with a possible solution. They were asking the City to approve a lateral transfer, which would allow officers currently working with other departments to come to Portsmouth without losing their current pay rate. Council is considering the proposal and will discuss it further at the next Council meeting.
Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) summer intern Scott Leeth was also present during the conference meeting. Allen explained that the City hired SOPA to assist in conducting an inventory of commercial property.
The inventory, focused on Portsmouth’s downtown, found 510 commercial buildings with a total market value of $194,566,240. The annual tax due on those properties is $1,470,422.36, of which the tax paid is $1,345,034.72 with a tax delinquency of $127,042.06. Thus, approximately 8% is delinquent.
Leeth further explained that total tax exemptions and abatements total $115,911,250. 58% of commercial properties located downtown are tax exempt or abated. Allen elaborated by explaining that many are not abated. Instead, they are tax exempt. These include nonprofits, schools, churches and government buildings.
As part of the inventory, SOPA rated the condition of the properties. Leeth added that in the data collected, they found a correlation between property condition and tax delinquencies. Though most properties were rated good or very good, those which are in poor condition also tend to be tax delinquent.
Before adjourning, Allen also asked Council to discuss creation of policy designed to establish a process for community members engaged in fundraising activities for the benefit of City properties. Allen cited three examples of recent fundraisers organized by community members wishing to make improvements to City properties.
Of those, he explained that only one group worked with the City on their projects. The City Manager explained that a group had done a fundraiser for Greenlawn Cemetery. He added that the group was a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and had worked out an agreement with the City.
However, Allen stated that two other groups of community members orchestrated fundraising efforts – one for repairs at the municipal pool and the other for repairs to Spartan Stadium. Allen explained that $25,000 had been raised for the stadium and was unable to say how or if that money had been utilized.
Allen did, however, state that he suspects the money has already been spent. The City Manager added that he was unsure how money raised for the pool was utilized, explaining that he though the money would be used for paint for the pool. However, he confirmed that the City paid for that paint, and assumed the group would be using the money for paint needed for fencing. However, he then stated that the City then paid for that paint as well during Serve Day activities.
“If they are raising money for the City, it should go through the City,” Councilman Kevin W. Johnson stated.
In order to encourage residents involved in fundraising efforts for City property to turn such money over to the City, Allen and Johnson suggested offering an incentive by matching funds up to $50,000. Each agreement, however, would go through Council for approval. The new legislation, if passed by Council, would require funds to be turned in to the City for City control. The money would be monitored through the City’s capital improvement process.
Johnson stressed that he did not want to discourage residents for assisting the City. He just wanted a way of monitoring such activities.
“This provides a transparent methodology,” Johnson stated. “I hope this kind of thing continues in the future. This just gives us a process.”
The City Manager’s Conference follows the City Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month in Council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Second Street in Portsmouth.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.