Helper decides to add police officer
Helper city has approved the hire of a new officer for the local police department.
The new hire proposition was presented for approval to the city council at a Sept. 18 meeting by Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis. Even with the stagnant economy, he was able to make the council an offer they couldn't refuse.
Zamantakis recently applied for and received a federal grant that will pay the majority of the new officer's salary for the next three years.
Normally, the grant is based on a 75/25 split, with the federal government paying 75 percent of the salary and the city making up the other 25 percent.
But, through an additional waiver application, Zamantakis was able to further reduce the city's obligation to 10 percent, with the grant covering the other 90 percent.
Zamantakis said he was able to get the reduction by demonstrating the economic condition of the area in comparison to the local law enforcement needs.
"We're in hurting times," he commented. "That's why we went after the additional funding - to help as much as we can. It's an opportunity we need to take."
The one contingency of the grant, however, is that once the grant expires after the third year, Helper City is responsible for the entire fourth year's salary.
After that point, the city can decide whether or not to retain the officer.
According to Zamantakis, the goal of the department in hiring the new officer is to free up a more "seasoned officer" to begin doing detective work for the department. Currently, five full-time officers, including Zamantakis, compose the Helper Police Department. In 2002, the agency responded to 7,286 calls.
Zamantakis asserted that the current work load does not allow the department to commit as much time to each case as they would like.
He said the addition of the new officer will allow the agency to investigate crimes more fully.
"It will free up one of the patrol positions to follow up on cases," he noted. "I think it's going to help solve a lot of crimes."
Detective Will Draughon of Carbon County's attorney's office, was in attendance at the meeting to discuss the importance of detective work for a police force.
Draughon applauded Zamantakis for the aggressive nature with which he approaches crime in Helper.
He also projected that the implementation of a detective position within the department could make an enormous difference in the community.
"In Helper, you have some serious crimes," Draughon said. "I think it would be a marvelous addition to your police agency that will make the city a better place to live."
According to Draughon, the county used to rely on several detectives. In recent years, those numbers have dropped.
"For some reason, we've gone backwards," he noted.
In council deliberations, Mayor Joe Bonacci reminded the council that approving the grant would make Helper city financial accountable in a few years.
"That's a gamble," Bonacci stated. "We can't predict what the economy will be like in four years. But, it's a gamble we have to make for Helper."
The acceptance of the grant was unanimously approved by the council.
Helper's council was also presented with an award by the Association of Government at the Thursday night meeting.
The 21st Century award is a program facilitated by Governor Mike Leavitt. The purpose of the award is to congratulate rural communities for making strides to accommodate the rapidly changing state.
Bonacci accepted the awards on behalf of the council.
In addition to the police grant and AOG award, Helper City Council also discussed the disposal of two city vehicles.