EARLE, AR (KAIT) – The Mayor of Earle talked exclusively with Region 8 News about the city council's decision to fire the police chief and assistant chief.
The Earle city council decided to eliminate positions within the police force due to a $150,000 city budget shortfall.
Earle residents held a citizens action rally at the city hall annex across the street from city hall to voice their concerns to mayor Otis Davis. Mayor Davis said he understands the point of view of Earle residents. "They feel that they're not going to be protected because the chief position and the assistant chief position are not in place."
"But we're not going to veto the budget," he said. "The largest part of our budget was basically the police department."
Mayor Davis will appoint a captain to supervise a reduced staff of three full-time police officers and three part-time police officers, and manage the day-to-day operations of the police department, effective January 1, 2012.
"We still have leadership and I still think that's the basic point of it all if you got somebody that is qualified to do the same identical thing."
The salary of the captain will range between $23,000-$23,5000 a year, about $8,000 less than the current police chief Walter Voyles, mayor Davis said.
Earle native Selita Baker thinks the income of the city council should go on the chopping block before the police department. "I'm not saying the city council is not doing their job. I think there's too many of them." Mayor Davis said the eight city council members are paid $200 per meeting, and offered $748 as a stipend or in the form of health insurance. Council members are allowed choose to take the stipend or insurance.
The 2010 census showed the city decreased by 622 people, from 3,036 in 2000 to 2,414. Mayor Davis estimates the budget cuts will save the city $36,000. Mayor Davis said he does not have the authority to reduce the number of council members, nor does law mandate it. "Even though we (the 2010 census recognizes Earle) as a second class city, that doesn't mean that we have to reduce the size of the council that's the council's decision. The council has to vote and approve."
Mayor Davis said the cuts allowed the city to start 2012 with a balanced budget. "I didn't want to start off in the red, and we didn't start off in the red, and we're fine from that point."
"They elected us to do a job, to trust us and that's what I'm asking them to do for us."