By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading that would change the management structure for the police and fire departments.
Board members took the action during their May 14 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Mike Caruthers and seconded by Alderman Larry Dagen.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing and final reading at the board’s June 14 meeting.
Title 6 of the Municipal Code deals with operation of the Public Safety Department, which includes both police and fire services. Title 7 was repealed, and no provisions were subsequently adopted to replace it.
City Manager Ed Haley has recommended that a chief be named for the police department and a different one for the fire department to “better manage” the departments and “improve the quality of services” provided to residents.
The fire chief would also serve as the director of Public Safety, with duties beyond those of a fire chief.
Because a Code amendment is necessary to allow this management structure to “function properly,” the proposed ordinance would repeal Title 6 and replace it with newly worded Titles 6 and 7.
City Finance Director John Trusty recalled that, when the board created the Public Safety Director position, it changed Title 6 to include the police and fire departments, because Millington did not have a police chief at that time.
He noted that the proposed ordinance would become effective, and the new police chief would assume that office, on July 2 – the first workday of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
On May 9, 2016, the board appointed Fire Chief Gary Graves to serve as director of the newly created Department of Public Safety. His new appointment came in the wake of Police Chief Arthur Heun’s resignation three days earlier.
Heun was appointed by the board in September 2015 to replace Frank Tennant, who resigned after $12,000 was discovered missing from the Property and Evidence Room of the police department.
At the May 2016 board meeting, Haley acknowledged a “calming” of the police department during the previous eight months. But he said it had not reached the “level of service” that he believed it should.
Haley said Graves possessed the leadership capability, administrative ability, skill, knowledge and desire to see the police and fire departments achieve that higher level.
Graves acknowledged that the concept of a public safety director is “unique,” particularly in the South. But he noted that “a couple of large cities” in East Tennessee had adopted it.
He said police and fire are separate departments with separate tasks, but they have one mission: to provide for the public safety of Millington’s residents.
By Bill Short