BY BRIAN JONES
COLUMBUS – The Columbus City Council breezed through a brief agenda Tuesday night, hiring several new police officers and hearing comments from a concerned citizen.
The council voted 6-0 to hire five entry level police officers and one certified officer at the Columbus Police Department. The certified officer will begin duty immediately, but the five others must go to the police academy They are part of a class of 14 trainees heading to the academy, which is the largest class ever sent by CPD. The next class begins May 21, and lasts for about 12 weeks.
At a press conference last week Police Chief Oscar Lewis said that, upon returning from the academy in August, they will spend some time in the CPD’s field officer training program before being released to work alone.
At that same press conference Smith said that if all of the officers complete the academy then the department will be at 60 officers. Full staffing is 67 officers, but the council had previously approved adding 10 more, for a total of 77.
Lillian Murray came before the council to ask about support for a beautification project.
“I’m here today to present a program that could benefit the City of Columbus,” she said. “I am a transplant to the city. I moved here in 2011 as a retiree. I chose this city because it is the Friendly City. As I moved around the city to familiarize myself with my surroundings I noticed there are a lot of blighted properties around the city.
“This program that I am proposing is a lawn care program for senior citizens,” she said. “We all know that the seniors in Columbus are responsible for all the things that we are enjoying today. Those things were built on the backs of the people who are seniors today. Many of them are unable to take care of their lawns, sometimes because of illness and sometimes just because they don’t feel like doing those things.
The program that I am proposing is one that I hope will be subsidized by charitable groups and by the city,” she said. “By churches, by family members who are interested in getting care for their family members, for the City of Columbus to help. If you choose to vote for the program, we can partner with Mississippi State University to help us because many agriculture program students have to put in hours outside of their classroom.
“We all know that when property is unkempt and grass is growing high we are plagued with rodents, with snakes, with mosquitos,” she said. “I would like to say that because the senior citizens are so important that we embrace this concept. Take care of our seniors. It will improve the value of the property, it will draw people to Columbus and make them proud of the city, as I am right now. It will give them an opportunity to see the care our officials have for the seniors of this city.”
Mayor Robert Smith said the council would take her proposal under consideration.
No action was taken.
In other business, the council unanimously appointed Rita Felton to the Civil Service Commission on a motion by Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin and a second by Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor. Michael Sykes Jr. also applied for the post. Felton will fill out the remainder of Al Hatcher’s unexpired term, which ends Aug. 5, 2018. Hatcher resigned earlier this year.