New Antioch city department has only two new services, takes five services from other departments

Has confusing name, director’s compensation will be $275,069 to $327,382 per year; no word on if other department heads will get cut in pay with fewer responsibilities; Torres-Walker redefines term “public safety”; will cost $1.5 million to refurbish Rivertown Resource Center and displace 16 non-profit organizations located there

By Allen D. Payton

The new Antioch city department, with the temporary and confusing name of Public Safety and Community Resources Department, which has nothing to do with police services, moved forward Tuesday night, Feb. 22, 2022, when the city council voted 4-1 to form an ad hoc committee to assist in the formation and determine the scope of activities. Only District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock voted against formation of the ad hoc committee. The council also approved the new class specification and salary and compensation for its director at $275,069 to $327,382 per year.

The council then approved forming the ad hoc committee and appointing Districts 1 and 4 Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker and Monica Wilson to it during their March 8 meeting on a 5-0 vote.

New Department Responsibilities, Torres-Walker Redefines Term Public Safety

The department will include, but not be limited to, the existing services of Animal Control, currently part of the Police Department; Youth Services Network Manager, currently part of the Recreation Department; Code Enforcement, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that are currently part of the Community Development Department, and the Unhoused Resident Coordinator, currently part of the city manager’s office.

The only new services of the department will be mental health crisis response, and violence intervention and prevention, both of which could be handled by the police department.

In choosing a name for the ad hoc committee, Ogorchock said using the words public safety means police to most people and the name is misleading, and former police lieutenant and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica said when he hears public safety, he thinks police and fire. But District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, who’s been pushing for the formation of the new department said “I think framing public safety as just policing is misleading. I’ve been having these conversations for over 13 years in my career as an organizer. So, a lot of us have decided that public safety is a lot more than policing. It’s about quality of life, environmental justice, youth services, housing. Public safety is about economic dignity, access to jobs, clean water, clean air. All of those things, not just policing. Policing is a part of public safety and we have forgot about that as a community. And I think being able to have this department be called the Department of Public Safety and Community Resources will also help reorient our community to understand that public safety doesn’t just mean policing. It also means access to quality, well organized resources in the city.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he’s fine with including public safety in the name of the ad hoc committee and that “Public Works are part of public safety because they keep streets repaired”. Councilwoman Monica Wilson went along with the use of public safety in the ad hoc committee’s name.

Questions Go Unanswered by Mayor, Three Council Members and City Staff

The following questions were sent to the five council members and city staff on March 8:

“Since the new Public Safety and Community Resources Department will include, but not be limited to, the existing services of Animal Control, currently part of the Police Department; Youth Services Network Manager, currently part of the Recreation Department; Code Enforcement, the Unhoused Resident Coordinator, and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that are currently part of the Community Development Department, and the only new services of the department will be mental health crisis response, and violence intervention and prevention, is a new department really needed?

Can’t both of the new services be handled by the police department and leave the current services where they are?

Finally, since you will be paying the director of the new department at a cost of $275,069 to $327,382 per year, will the police chief and directors of the other departments who currently oversee the five existing services be given a pay cut since they will have less responsibility and to offset the cost for the director of the new department?

If you must use the name of the new department, couldn’t you, instead simply hire a Public Safety and Community Resources Coordinator, at a much lower cost than a department head, who can work with each of those services and each of the department heads that currently and would oversee the seven services and either answer to the city manager or assistant city manager?

Or do some of you already have someone picked out for the position of director for the new department and some commitment has already been made for it?”

Ogorchock Calls it a “Mini City Hall”, Will Displace 16 Non-Profits from Rivertown Resource Center

Ogorchock was responded by writing, “I have voted against this new dept., since the onset.  These depts., are currently under different directors already.  You are forgetting the cost of the refurbishment of the old PD to the tune of 1.5+ million of taxpayer dollars. You’ve also left off Environmental Services. When and if the old PD is used, all of the nonprofits will be kicked out, left to find another spot to do the work for our residents!” She’s referring to the use of the Antioch Rivertown Resources Center on W. 10th Street to house the new department.

Regarding cutting the salaries for those department heads currently handling the existing services she wrote, “I doubt that will happen, if it does I can just about guarantee they too will be leaving the city, and go where they are appreciated.”

In response to merely hiring a coordinator instead Ogorchock replied, “It is my understanding that this dept., will be too big, it will be a mini city hall! Look at the number of employees that will fill it, code enforcement alone will be 14 officers, manager, and 2 technicians, (I think).  I could be off by 1.”

In response to the question if someone has already been picked out as the department head she wrote, “I believe they do, I am not privy to that information.”

Other Questions for Council & City Staff

Additional questions were asked of the council and staff including, “On a side note, I saw a job opening for the Unhoused Resident Coordinator. Is that old? Or is it new and Jazmin Ridley is no longer in that position? If so, did she take another position on city staff or leave city staff? On another side note, why does the city need another interim chief of police? Isn’t our current Interim Chief of Police Tony Morefield doing the job that’s needed to be done?”

Ogorchock responded to the first question writing, “Jazmin was not a full-time employee, her position is now going to be a full time job.  We authorized the budget on our last budget cycle.  This is a very important position, we need to continue the work on a full time basis.”

To the second she replied, “You’re asking another question I’ve asked.  I did so when I was interviewed by KRON 4. You may want to watch that interview as I asked several questions, including that this individual needs to go thru what all other officers that are hired from the outside.  Then listen to Lamar’s interview indicating Steve was/is the new Interim Chief of Police.”

No other answers were received as of Tuesday, April 12 at 5:00 p.m.

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