By Dewain E. Peek,
Livingston Board of Mayor and Aldermen held the regular monthly meeting Monday, May 3.
Following up on the announcement last month that funds had been reported missing at Livingston Police Department, MTAS Police Management Consultant Rex Barton addressed the City Council about new policies and procedures for LPD.
“Mayor Hayes reached out to me to provide some input on new procedures on how to handle property in evidence at the Police Department,” Barton said.
He said the concerns were primarily handling cash, but also sensitive property items such as guns, drugs, and automobiles.
Barton said that along with procedures that he presented, Police Chief Greg Etheredge proposed placing a limit on seizures of cash at $500.
“When you start taking $50, $25, $30 – the paperwork, the manpower that’s involved in doing that sort of thing, it’s crazy,” Barton said.
He said that with any seizure a notice has to be sent to the Department of Safety, and then there is a probable cause hearing before a magistrate to explain the reason for the seizure.
Also, Chief Etheredge is now a point of contact that when money is seized, he is to be notified at that time, and in his absence, Capt. Ray Smith would be the point of contact. Chief Etheredge or Capt. Smith would come in and do a count of the money with the officer, give the officer a receipt for the money, and then at the earliest time possible, deliver the cash to the finance office at City Hall for deposit into the bank.
Another set of procedures were developed concerning non-cash items.
Of the proposed policies and procedures, Barton said, “The Chief did a really good job of writing those. They are pretty much what I recommended, and what I’ve recommended to dozens of other police departments around the state over the last 26 years.”
He also said Chief Etheredge has begun getting disposition of cases so that when a case has been completed, then the Police Department will know what to do with the seized items sooner.
“We have a problem everywhere I go as a consultant, having guns and drugs and property longer than they need to be there because we have trouble getting a disposition,” Barton said.
Alderman David Langford asked what happens when someone is arrested who is carrying less than $500.
“You leave it with them and take them to the jail and let the jail fool with it,” Barton said.
He clarified also that any money that is not connected with a crime would stay with the person being arrested, regardless of the amount.
With the aldermen not ready to vote on the new procedures for dealing with evidence and seized property, having just received them, it will be placed on next month’s meeting agenda.
Reducing parking space requirements
Second reading approval was given for Ordinance 2021-5-1, which changes parking space requirements from one parking space for every 50 square feet of public area to one parking space for every 200 square feet.
Rezoning an area touching Railroad Street, Evans Street, South Church Street, and Goodpasture Street, from I-1 to C-2 was approved on first reading. Second reading will be considered at 5:50 p.m. Monday, June 7. The area had been considered industrial when the shirt factory was in operation. Now, that building is gone.
Of the eight parcels involved, three are owned by the Town of Livingston and Downtown Revitalization Committee.
City Planner Tommy Lee said, “The purpose of the rezoning is to allow the property owners to have a little bit more flexibility with their property.”
Both Lee and Mayor Curtis Hayes said the property owners were not opposed to the rezoning.
Jenna Roberts was hired at Livingston Police Department to replace Max Goodpaster, who took medical retirement in December.
In making the recommendation, Police Chief Greg Etheredge said, “She’s got some corrections experience, which is very helpful, and especially with the juvenile probation experience with that. So, I think she could be an asset to our School Resource Officer program.”
Mayor Hayes disclosed, “I am related to Miss Roberts. I just want to be transparent about that.”
He said the hiring process was conducted by Livingston Police Department. Chief Etheredge, Capt. Smith, and Sgt. Jeremy Laycock, who runs the SRO program, carried out the interview process.
Home Grant Resolution 2021-5-1 was adopted to apply for a THDA grant to renovate homes in the city.
Amanda Mainord was present to answer questions and explained that the program is for low income families, elderly, disabled, and those in need, who own their home.
She said that a house that is in a dilapidated state can be torn down and a new structure built in its place.
“We can also work on mobile homes this year as well,” Mainord said.
Jason Duke gave an update on Livingston-Overton County Airport.
He reported that Tommy Fitzgerald has requested termination of his lease, with no cost penalty, on the 100 x 100 foot hangar. The hangar ownership reverts back to the airport.
The request was approved.
Duke, who is chairman of the Airport Committee, said, “The first thing I’m going to do is run ads in avionics and airplane maintenance and airplane sales magazines and publications searching for an airplane maintenance facility or avionics shop that will rent that building, provide a tax base to the City of Livingston and Overton County, possibly provide jobs, bring aircraft in and will purchase fuel. It’s my goal to make the airport self-sufficient.”
If he is not successful with that, he would approach the six air ambulance companies in the area to see if any would be interested in the facility.
He also offered a third option.
“Look for a corporate client who would rent all the space at a minimal lease of five years at approximately $1,500 per month,” Duke said.
He said leasing it to multiple individual renters would not be a positive situation, primarily due to concerns about the individuals’ private property with more people having access.
“I say, in the meantime, we use it to park any transient aircraft that are commercial clients that are suitable,” Duke said.
He announced that the Airport Layout Plan is being updated as required by FAA before any future federal funding can be considered. Costs associated with the update are being paid at 95% from federal aid, and the remaining 5% is shared equally between the Town of Livingston and Overton County.
He also informed the Board of Alderman about planned land acquisition from four land owners on the east side of the runway in order to replace the fence.
The current fence is mainly barb wire and wire woven fencing, which does not meet current regulations.
“Most of it’s about four-feet high,” Duke said. “Deer have no problem jumping that fence and running onto our runway.”
Current regulations require an 8-foot fence with razor wire at the top, and it also requires a 50-foot buffer.
“So, for us to do that, we’re going to have to purchase a 50-foot-wide strip along the eastern side of the runway,” Duke said.
He said the land acquisition will be paid 95% from federal funding and the remaining 5% to be split between the Town of Livingston and Overton County.
This division of funding applies to the engineering and required appraisal costs, which total $75,151.
He said this will take another 12 to 18 months.
Alderman Kelly Coleman asked if the land owners were on board with selling the land.
He said they were agreeable, but that one parcel is just a little more than 50 feet so the entire parcel may need to be purchased because it would not leave enough land for the land owner to do anything with it.
The requests were approved.
Duke announced that the next meeting of the Airport Committee will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 18 at the airport. The meeting is open to the public.
Mayor Curtis Hayes brought attention to a letter from TOSHA and the response given. The letter concerned Livingston Fire Department being written up because the sleeping quarters lacked proper ingress and egress.
To fix the problem, the sleeping quarters were moved to the Livingston Police Department training room of the Public Safety Building, which is shared with the fire department. Livingston Municipal Court had been using the training room, but will now move to another location yet to be determined.
Mayor Hayes also mentioned that some perceived structural problems at the Public Safety Building are being looked into.
A surplus auction of city property was approved for noon Friday, May 21 at the city garage. Alderman David Langford voted against the sale, having in the past objected because of the inclusion of city vehicles being sold in favor of leasing. Alderman Chris Speck was absent.
Summer workers were hired for the park and the pool. The city pool will open Memorial Day weekend.
A second mural design was approved. This mural, which promotes Standing Stone State Park, will be painted on the Pickers Palace 2 building.
Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shannon Cantrell said that because the mural being painted on Linda Terry’s building includes musical reference, the town is eligible for a Music Pathways marker.
Ray Evans gave a Downtown Revitalization update.
Before the meeting adjourned, Mayor Hayes announced that a budget meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, June 7.
“That’ll be our first reading of the budget, to review,” Mayor Hayes said.
The second reading is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, June 28.