SELMA – It’s been nearly four years to the day that Selma City leaders have been attempting to build a new police station on the grassy lot next to City Hall.
Although a City Council agenda item to decide whether to move forward and build the station with the current labor agreement, or risk legal action without it, was anticipated at the April 1 meeting, it had been pulled from the agenda.
“It was removed for further review and for discussion with legal counsel on the legal issues raised at the previous meeting,” Mayor Scott Robertson said. “It will be back on the public agenda.”
City Manager Teresa Gallavan did not give a specific date as to when the decision would come back before Council, but meeting agendas are posted on the City’s website and at City Hall 72 hours before regular meetings and 24 hours before special meetings.
"We did move the police station item to a future agenda so we can do a final review check that was an internal miscommunication. We need to double check on references and surety bond. We’ll have that out on one of the next agendas,” Gallavan said.
After recognizing the Selma High girls basketball team, wrestlers and Boys and Girls Club members, Council took public comment and citizens again packed City Hall Chambers to voice their frustration over recent shootings that took place over the March 30 weekend. They’d rather the Council focus on finding funding to hire more officers and combat gang activity in town rather than on the police station project.
Later in the meeting, Police Chief Greg Garner did say new officers and dispatchers would be sworn in at the April 15 Council meeting.
Regarding the weekend shootings, Garner said after the March 30 shooting he informed the city manager that more officers were put on street patrols. Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium and ACT officers were called in and “would continue for as long as we need them. We’re going to be having additional officers on patrol for the next several nights adding to what we already have.
IN regards to the two events, there’s not a lot I can say since they are ongoing investigations, but I can tell you they were isolated, targeted incidents. They weren’t random. We have information that could lead us to an arrest in a very short period of time.”
Citizens asked for more aid from outside policing agencies, a concentrated gang task force and a coordinated effort with the schools to keep youth out of gangs.
Some expressed frustration that even if they involve local law enforcement when there’s a crime, the punishment isn’t severe enough to be an effective deterrent.
Sonny Morales was among those sharing that frustration. “It hurts to see these young kids dying,” he said of close friends that have been killed in town. He’s been shot himself and has had his car was broken into. Morales detained the suspect in that car theft attempt but officers were hamstrung by laws that “basically would be a slap on the hand for that guy.”
Morales said simply criticizing the local police chief doesn’t help, but is stymied as to what to do to find solutions.
“My question is, as a citizen, what can we do to help and make things better? Can we help the PD? I know there’s Neighborhood Watches, but am I going to watch a guy do this and that and then just call PD? By the time PD gets there, this guy’s gone. A lot of people are like myself. I’m a man of action and I’ll wind up taking the law into my own hands. That’s a bad thing to do, but we’ve got to do something. I don’t know what else to say.”
Rosemary Alanis said after coordinating efforts with the local police, she and her neighbors set up a Neighborhood Watch in their area on Almond Street. She’s gone on to help others do the same around town, but says the watches need to be throughout the entire city to work.
“It’s so quiet now, it’s eerie. Neighborhood Watch does work, but we have to be vigilant, communicate and not just come to these meetings and complain but go home and do nothing. People are apathetic and people don’t call and don’t care. We’ve got to work together. It’s not just the Council or the Police Department. It’s all of us.”
Since the decision to hire more officers requires either additional funds in the City’s budget, or cuts to other departments, choices will be need to be hashed out at upcoming budget workshops.
Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Isaac Moreno said those workshops will start at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 23 and will likely last at least two hours.
Moreno said he’ll send council members a workbook beforehand and policies previously brought up at Council meetings will be addressed. Any policy changes will be brought back to a Council meeting for adoption.
“We’ll be looking at forecasts for pensions, revenues and expenditures for multiple years. This is our pre-budget meeting. We’ll go through the full budget whether it’s staffing levels, cost increases. We’ll go through the whole thing. This is where we incorporate what we heard at the visioning sessions from the council as a whole. We start having that conversation as to what it looks like.”
Robertson added he wanted to talk about economic stimulation at that meeting.
“That [community development financing initiative] is a great tool. It’s something that we could look into, in the context of the discussion of the budget, at how the policy for how accounts are used and how money in those accounts are used and transferred.”
His budget goal is to hire two more officers and an additional code enforcement officer.