MANSFIELD -- A $1 million federal grant will pay for the Mansfield Police Department to hire four additional officers, Chief Keith Porch told City Council on Tuesday evening.
Council unanimously approved acceptance of the $1,083,097, three-year grant from the U.S. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, a competitive offering open to all state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in the country.
"This is a grant that is phenomenal to get," Porch said, adding the program also waived the normal 25-percent match departments are required to pay to receive the grant.
"This is basically $1.1 million being given to us to hire these officers," the chief said.
He praised the work of Capt. Sheri Robertson and Lt. Michael Napier for their work preparing the grant application.
The only cost to the city during the grant is $149,181 for items covered under local union contracts that are eligible for grant funding.
According to the COPS Hiring Program website, the grants allow communities funding to "hire and re-hire entry level career law enforcement officers in order to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities and support crime prevention efforts."
The program website said more than $572 million was requested by 1,091 law enforcement agencies in 2020, though just $394 million was awarded.
Porch said the department currently has 80 sworn officers, well below its authorized hiring level. The chief said he has two officers preparing to leave the department and he anticipates hiring eight or nine new officers in the second half of 2020.
Finance Director Linn Steward endorsed acceptance of the grant.
"I don't think we can afford to turn down almost $1.1 million," Steward said.
Also on Tuesday, Council approved the second reading of an amended bill declaring systemic racism to be a public health crisis.
The proposal received its first reading on June 16 and was amended during public affairs committee meeting on July 14. It's scheduled for a third reading and final vote on Aug. 4.
Richland Public Health has agreed to participate in the community effort aimed at ending racial inequalities in Richland County.
The thrust of the effort would come through the formation of a community task force to study issues and recommend solutions to local elected officials and policy makers.
The committee meeting included remarks by Brigitte Coles and Deanna West-Torrence, representing a local group of nine women who began work on this effort weeks before Minneapolis police killed a Black man named George Floyd on May 25.
During the July 14 committee meeting, Coles said the resolution is not about politics, nor is it about defunding police departments.
In 2015, she helped to found the local group, We ACT, which has worked to improve relations between community residents and local law enforcement agencies.
"It's simply about recognizing that every person has human dignity," Coles said. "We are only as strong as our partnerships make each other."
In other activity Tuesday, Council approved:
-- appropriation of $1,690,386 in recently received federal CARES Act funds, dollars aimed at assisting local government with expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were equally dispersed equally to four "non-department operation classifications," with $422,596 going to supplies and materials, contractual services, capital outlay and other. Steward said plans to determine how to best spend the funds would be the topic of a city administration meeting next week.
-- amended 2020 CDBG and HOME fund applications, including $514,410 in COVID-19 relief funds made available through the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
-- a $207,975 commercial loan agreement with Richland Bank for technology improvements.
-- a bill "creating and adjusting positions, pay grades and salaries for certain" city employees.
-- the city's 2021 tax budget, which must be submitted to the Richland County Auditor.
-- re-appointment of Martha Schoonover to the Fair Housing Commission.
-- payments from the sewer assistance fund on backup damage claims from Sandra Scott, 214 E. First St. ($780), and Brook Taylor, same address, ($780).
-- payment of $6,147.83 to EMH&T as final payment on the Mansfield City Parks master plan.
-- payment of $6,680 to Trade Pro Renovations, LLC, for eight new dugouts at Cyclops Field.
-- transferring $7,816,44 within the grant fund for crime lab equipment.
-- transferring $17,492.33 within the grant fund for METRICH equipment needs and personnel adjustments.
-- transferring $20,000 within the community development fund for computer equipment and office furniture.
-- transferring $26,895 within the safety service fund for in-car/cruiser computers.
-- appropriating $6,000 from the downtown improvement fund for plant watering and litter control by Richland Newhope Industries.
-- appropriating $27,000 from the court costs fund for the replacement of a police cruiser destroyed in an accident. The insurance company of the driver at fault in the wreck will reimburse the city $18,133.
-- acceptance of $2,747.45 from the Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services for the purchase of EMS equipment for the Mansfield Fire Department.
-- acceptance of a $3,000 grant from the Lions Club International Foundation for personal protective equipment for the Mansfield Fire Department.
-- acceptance of a $49,061.98 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for METRICH operations.
-- acceptance of a $63,199.70 CARES Act grant for health-care related expenses in the Mansfield Fire Department.
-- acceptance of a $250,000 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for METRICH operations.
-- authorizing the finance director to make transfers within the city's appropriated funds to balance accounts by Dec. 31, 2020.
-- entering into an agreement, without competitive bidding, with B.K. Layer, LLC, not to exceed $89,005 for the replacement of a 16-inch water main in the vicinity of Fifth Street and Ashland Road. The line broke beneath the Rocky Fork.
-- authorization "use of a portion of the proceeds of obligations to the City of Mansfield in the estimated principal amount not to exceed $35,000,000" for water treatment plant work. Steward said the measure is a financial tool that would allow the city to reimburse the water fund for expenses, if and when Council would consider and approve a bond issue for the work.
Council also discussed during caucus and give a first read to grant a license retroactive to Aug. 1 to the Richland Early American Center for History to construct and install a blacksmith shop in South Park.