City seeks DV grant; new handbook in the works

Selectmen Leta Turner and Jasper Pittman look at two different versions of the city's personnel handbook
Staff Writer

Two Homeland Security grants will improve the West Point Fire Department’s rescue capabilities. Meanwhile, the Police Department hopes a federal grant could expand its response to the growing number of domestic violence calls it handles.

The Fire Department has been awarded a $10,000 for equipment to supplement its current inventory. A separate $17,000 grant will purchase a two-seat all-terrain vehicle to be used in searches and a variety of other scenarios.

The department still is reviewing its needs before deciding what to obtain with the smaller grant.

Because the grants are funded by Homeland Security, the department will be on call to bring the equipment to incidents answered by the regional Homeland Security Task Force, of which West Point is a member. At the same time, the Task Force responds to Clay County incidents, such as the search in July for a Starkville woman who got lost in a rural area south of Cedar Bluff near the Oktibbeha County line.

“It works both ways, we respond when called, if the equipment is available, and they respond tom us. That’s the whole idea of the Task Force, regional response and cooperation,” City Manager Randy Jones told the Board of Selectmen this week.

The board approved Police Chief Avery Cook’s request to apply for up to $500,000 in federal funds for a new domestic violence intervention program. The three-year grant would pay at least one officer’s salary, cover the cost of a vehicle and equipment, Cook told board members.

The grant focuses on preventing and handling sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

The department also was authorized to apply for a $5,000 Home Depot Foundation grant to purchase equipment for investigators.

On an unrelated subject, Selectmen agreed to have the city staff update the city’s personnel handbook. Selectman Ken Poole had asked about the handbook and during a study session Monday night, Jones presented them a version the previous board had not approved more than two years ago.

The last official revision was in 1990, although individual policies have been revised or adopted and given to city employees through the years, Jones said.

The personnel policies are different from operational manuals used by police and fire departments although some of the rules do overlap.

The city’s insurance companies periodically review the handbook to “make sure we have policies in place that will protect us from lawsuits,” Jones said, noting Travelers, which currently has the city’s liability coverage, is particularly diligent.

“We’ve got all kinds of stray policies out there that are not included in that new handbook,” he said, referring to the version never approved by the previous board. “We need to get all these together in one document.”

“Let’s just bring it all to the table, get it all together, then we can look at everything and know what we have,” agreed Selectman Jasper Pittman.

The consolidated handbook could be ready for the board to review as early as next month.