With a new policy on the books, Ash Flat Police officers will be able to respond outside the city limits in emergency situations.
At a city council meeting Oct. 20, the board unanimously approved a new policy stressing the need for officers to use "good judgment" before responding to calls from other law enforcement agencies.
"Our primary concern is the city of Ash Flat," said city attorney Larry Kissee. "We want to keep the police force watching out over us ... but, sometimes they're needed to go outside the city in catastrophic instances."
At a city council meeting Sept. 15, Mayor Brien Nix Hall had said that the police response policy should be reviewed to prevent the city from any legal issues in the future and to keep the city covered with police protection at all times. While Hall said he wants officers to remain supportive, he said he does not want city offers to maintain control of a situation if it is outside the city's limits.
"We are not first responders," Hall said. "We certainly want to be supportive and help anyway we can. (The ordinance) opens up support but doesn't leave the city holding the bag."
Chief of Police Rickey Crook said that while he understood Hall's concern, and Ash Flat is his primary concern, the police could not be asked by the council not to respond to specific circumstances outside the city.
"I still think in some cases, it's still best for us to take care of the situation. There's situations that we respond to that are more serious than simply writing a citation," Crook said. "I took an oath to protect and serve and that oath doesn't end when I get to the city limit sign."
The issue sparked a debate between council members and Crook. After the meeting, Kissee researched the issue and put a resolution together which he said satisfies both sides.
"We found a happy meeting ground with emphasis on good judgment," said Mayor Brien Nix Hall.
The policy contains a list of several guidelines allowing officers to respond to calls outside the city limits: o An officer can make an arrest if he has a warrant in a county in the state.
o An officer outside his jurisdiction may arrest a person who commits an offense within the officer's view if the offense is a felony of misdemeanor.
o An officer may respond when called upon to assist in an arrest or to prevent another person from committing a crime.o An officer may assist in case of natural disasters.
o An officer may use the spike strip system outside the city in order to prevent a police pursuit from entering the city. o An officer can respond as backup for any high risk situation where another officer's safety is a concern.
An officer is to contact the chief of police for authorization and to make arrangements for the city to remain protected if an officer would be more than 10 minutes away from the city.
In other business, the council is going to address reimbursing the police department for holiday pay when it meets to discuss the budget in the coming weeks.
"I'm all for paying them now; I just don't know where we'll find the money," Hall said. "We've let this go on three years and we don't need to let it go on any longer."The city heard from Rod Smith with IESI about the raised garbage rates within the city. Smith said the city does not have a contract or a franchise agreement with the company. City residents with service are included on a county route rather than a city route. He said having a contract or franchise agreement would save residents money on their trash bills.
The council did not want to pass a measure requiring residents to have trash service. Smith is to determine how much money residents will save if the city entered into such an agreement. He will report back to the council at a later date.
The city will look into expanding the sewer lines to accommodate the growing Ozarka College campus in the city. The council passed two resolutions maintaining the current tax levy for the city for the year of 2004. The rate remains the same 2.0 mills for real estate and personal property. The council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor and the recorder/treasurer to enter into an engineering agreement with NRS Consulting Engineers out of Texarkana, Ark., for the potential sewer system expansion expected to be paid for by an Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program grant.
The council exempted non-CDL holding employees from drug testing.
The public works department will paint a dividing line on Court Road and is looking into expanding the curve on Arnhart Street. They are also looking into matching grants to build a new bridge to replace a low-water bridge across Big Creek.