A new police officer will be patrolling the streets of Salem starting this week.
The Salem City Council hired Mark Long Feb. 24 to replace Denny Bost, who resigned last month to take a job training policeman in Iraq.
"I'm glad we found somebody as qualified as Mark to take the job," said Salem Police Chief Al Roork.
Long, a certified officer since 2000, has been working for the Izard County Sheriff's Department since the beginning the year, Roork said.
Four candidates including Long were interviewed for the job. Long's education and experience led to his selection, Roork said
"He is a certified firearms instructor, a certified breathalyzer operator and radar instructor," Roork said. "There won't be any educational costs associated with Mark."
Prior to his service with the Izard County Sheriff's Department, Long served as an officer with the Horseshoe Bend City Police.
The council voted last month to pay a trained officer a beginning salary of $21,000. After that, the officer will receive the same percentage pay raises all city employees receive each year.
Bost, who worked at the Salem Police Department for 12 years, will be missed, Roork said.
"Denny was a great officer and a good friend," Roork said.
Pay for reserve officers Heath Everett and David Keck ceased March 1.
The city voted last month to pay Everett and Keck $600 apiece for covering Bost's shifts while the city searched for a replacement.
Long's wife, Rhonda, is a jailer and dispatcher for the Fulton County Sheriff's Department. Rhonda Long also serves as a reserve officer for the sheriff's office.
Long began his new job at noon March 2.
Alderman unanimously approved a motion to replace the Salem Welcome Center's roof and install a donated heat pump.
The city and the Salem Chamber of Commerce, which jointly own the building, will pay for the repairs by refinancing the loan on the center.
Chamber President Gary Phillips said the project will cost approximately $7,500.
He said it will cost approximately $5,000 to replace the old roof with a metal roof and $2,500 to install the heat pump donated by Noble and Carolyn Lewis.
Phillips said the Salem Chamber applied for grants to pay for the work, but their requests were denied. He said the roof has deteriorated and refinancing the loan was the only feasible option.
Salem Mayor Gary Clayton said adding $7,500 to the loan will extend its payout by one year.
The monthly payment amount will remain the same, Clayton said.
The loan is through the Bank of Salem.
The refinancing amount may be offset by money from the Salem Chamber Auction slated for March 5, if the chamber exceeds projected totals, Phillips said.
Besides repairing the building, Phillips said the center suffers from another problem -- it's closed too often.
"We desperately need volunteers to staff the building," Phillips said. "Locals and tourists use the building, but if no one is there to keep it open during the day, the community is losing out."
He said anyone interested in volunteering at the Welcome Center can contact the chamber at 870-895-7253 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Clayton said the city's 2005 budget is tight.
City department heads need to slash unnecessary costs over the next six months to prevent budget problems later in the year, he said.
"All expenditures need to be cut to the bone," Clayton said. "We're not in a real bind, but I want to prevent us from getting into one."