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Part-time police to bolster Marion patrols

Staff writer

People in Marion accustomed to five familiar faces of their police will have more officers to remember now that city council approved a plan Monday for part-time officers.

Marion police chief Tyler Mermis will fill an opening for a fifth full-time officer with two to five part-time officers. The move is paired with a pay increase for non-salaried officers from $10 to $15 an hour, putting the department on pay rates similar to other county law enforcement agencies.

“Working for $10, not too many people want to do that,” Mermis said. “We’re looking to raise that and put on a few people to help us out.”

Mermis said Hillsboro and Peabody both pay $15, Goessel $12, and the sheriff about $14. Part-time officers will work daytime hours.

The police department, which typically had five full-time officers, was down to three when officers Mike Stone and Lee Vogel left in August.

One of the openings was filled by part-timer Bryce Suffield, a former Marion full-time officer. The department has been operating without the other position filled for over a month.

“The last couple of weeks, I’ve been pretty swamped,” Mermis said.

He said there are five serious applicants already, but some would need training. The department would cover costs associated with training new officers.

Hiring part-time officers will save money, Mermis said, but the department can return to a fifth full-time officer if needed.

Council members approved revisions to the city’s social media policy, including guidance on employee use of personal accounts.

“While the City has no intention of unreasonably controlling your activities or communications outside work hours,” one of the revisions reads, “the City reserves the right to manage its public image and protect its confidential information.”

Included in the revision is a prohibition on “untrue, disrespectful, unprofessional, discriminatory, or harassing comments about others.”

The policy encourages elected officials to abide by it, even though they cannot be required to.

Only four mediums — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and NextDoor — have been approved for city use. Any new tools or accounts must be approved by the council.

City clerk Tiffany Jeffrey will administer all city social media.

“We just need to know what’s going out there so the image is consistent for the city,” city administrator Roger Holter said.

City social media use was discussed later when Holter, Mayor Todd Heitschmidt, and Vice Mayor Melissa Mermis reported on breakout sessions a recent Kansas League of Municipalities conference.

Heitschmidt said he attended the “messaging matters” breakout session, which discussed social media outreach to the community.

“I think we’re still a little bit behind the times in communicating,” he said.

In other action

  • Heitschmidt responded to questions he received about alcohol sales at WarBird Pizza on Main St. and the restaurant’s proximity to Marion High School. He said the restaurant is farther away from the school’s main entrance than the 300 feet required by city ordinance.
  • Holter said the blue green algae warning had been lifted at the county lake.
  • Council members met in closed session for 20 minutes with Holter and city attorney Susan Robson for discussion on an attorney-client privileged topic.
  • Council appointed Eric Billings to the library board.
  • A visioning work session will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the community center.

Last modified Sept. 27, 2017

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