After a federal grant helped the Neosho Police Department to fund one of its four new hires in the current budget year, the department is again seeking that same grant to put another officer on Neosho’s streets.

After a federal grant helped the Neosho Police Department to fund one of its four new hires in the current budget year, the department is again seeking that same grant to put another officer on Neosho’s streets.

Neosho Police Chief David McCracken went before the Neosho City Council on Tuesday to request permission to apply for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant.

The council agreed by consensus to allow McCracken to proceed with the application, which is due by May 22.

“We received an invitation to apply for an officer position,” McCracken said. “We’ve applied in the past and we were approved one officer that is now currently on staff.”

McCracken said that officer was hired last fall.

Prior to gaining approval for the grant last year, the department had applied for the grant two other times, though Neosho was not chosen in those earlier attempts.

McCracken said the grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Cops Hiring Program, is a 75 to 25 percent match on a salary for three years.

“We’re at five officers below the staff of 25 and this would help us get one of those for three years with minimal investment by the city,” McCracken told council.

While the COPS grant awarded in 2012 required that the new officer hired be a military veteran, who had served at least 180 days of active duty and had been honorably discharged, the 2013 grant does not include that requirement.

“This particular grant is giving preference to veterans rather than requiring they be veterans, as the prior one did,” McCracken said. “It gives us a little more leeway with our selection process.”

The Neosho Police Department suffered significant cuts in 2010, after the city’s financial crisis forced cuts to the police and fire departments’ ranks.

McCracken said full staff, prior to any cuts, had the department staffed at 26.

However, the police department has slowly been building back, with the staff now sitting at 20.

Meanwhile, the Neosho Fire Department has also relied on a grant to fund nine firefighter positions that were cut in 2010.

Though the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant was scheduled to expire last month, Fire Chief Mike Eads told council on Tuesday that the department has some remaining funds left from that, and that the department has been granted an extension to use those funds.

“The SAFER grant was due to expire April 27, because we still had funds in that grant I asked for an extension and it was approved,” Eads said. “The grant is actually through July 27, so that gives us enough time to use up the remaining funds that were there.”

Eads said while the grant extension is good through July, the remaining grant money should fund salaries through mid-May.

“We’re going to save just over $21,000 in our budget line for salaries on this budget year,” Eads told council.
The end of the $780,643 FEMA grant will not result in any department cuts, according to an earlier statement by Mayor Richard Davidson.

Davidson said in a February council meeting that the much-needed grant simply allowed the city time to get their finances in order to be able to fund those positions.

Based on the fire department’s year-end report, the SAFER grant also allowed the department to reinstate several programs, including responding to medical calls, community education, fire prevention programs and staffing of both stations.

Council members also heard a presentation from Bill Knotts and Ernie Trumbly of the Civil Air Patrol, who are interested in bringing a chapter of the organization to Neosho.

The Civil Air Patrol is a non-profit organization that serves as the official auxiliary for the United States Air Force.

Trumbly told council members that the group is interested in fixing up the vacant hangar at Neosho’s Hugh Robinson Memorial Airport, where they would host their educational programs. He said they are also looking to help fix up the Cessna T-37A jet aircraft trainer, which has been in Neosho through a loan with the Air Force since 2003.

“Neosho has all the aerospace history in Southwest Missouri with the Rocketdyne Air Force plant and also with Premier Turbines as it is now and of course with Hugh Robinson and the history that he has had with aviation,” Trumbly said.

Trumbly said the group would like to use the aircraft for a veteran’s memorial.

In other business, the council:

• Voted on final reading to approve two ordinances that will ban the sale of synthetic drugs in Neosho city limits, the first ordinances of that kind in the Neosho area. Ordinance 215.680 prohibits “the sale, offer for sale, purchase with intent to sell or public display for sale, of synthetic stimulant bath salts, synthetic cathinones, synthetic amphetamines and other synthetic stimulants that mimic illegal drugs.” Meanwhile, ordinance 215.690 prohibits the same actions for synthetic cannabinoid herbal incense.

• Gave final approval to an alley vacate request for the first 156’ of the alley on the south side of West Grand Avenue, between 111 West Grand Avenue and 105 West Grand Avenue, as well as annexation of the property located at 2502 Lusk Drive, known as the Links Professional Center.

• Voted to allow the Neosho Police Department to declare six light bars, five rear transport seats and two half cages surplus, and allow them to be gifted or loaned to another police department. Council also voted to declare as surplus 18 out-dated computers, four monitors and a printer, which are no longer in service in the police department.

• Voted on final reading to approve a budget amendment for the Public Works Department, reflecting expenses from the road improvements at Highway 59 and Clemons Drive.

• Awarded the city's trash service contract to Waste Corporation of Missouri, who currently serves as the city's trash service provider. This will result in the trash service charge per household coming to $8.88 per month for the first year and $9.10 for the second year, while senior citizens will be charged a discounted rate of $7.99 the first year and $8.19 the second year.

• Voted, on first reading, to approve an amendment to the state block grant agreement between the City of Neosho and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, increasing funding and the project timeline for the lighting project at the Neosho airport.

• Voted down a request to transfer $45,865 from the general fund to the parks budget to fund the restoration of the stairway in Big Spring Park. The council instead instructed the city to use funds in the Parks Sales Tax budget to fund the project. City manager Troy Royer said that move will result in the city putting off a separate parks project budgeted for the year. He said the city had been planning to use that funding on a sewer line project in Morse Park.

• Voted to approve three change orders, the first for $95,862.86 with Rosetta Construction for work on downtown water mains; for $1,683.19 with Rosetta Construction, for work on Kodiak Road transmission mains; and for $84,512 with David E. Ross Construction for work on the water treatment plant. Each of the projects are part of the voter approved $9.5 million water improvement plan.