HANSON, Ky. (6/1/16) – Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson was on hand at the Hanson City Council meeting last night to answer questions about the need for law enforcement in Hanson.

Mayor Mickie DeMoss said he has been talking to Sanderson about issues pertaining to a police presence in Hanson and asked him to speak at the city council meeting.

Sanderson said there is no income yet from the businesses coming to Hanson, like Walmart, Love’s and Ideal and probably won’t be for a while.

“I understand although the city is growing, as of yet, there are no funds available to hire a full-time police officer,” said Sanderson.

He said grants are available to established police departments to purchase equipment, gear and even vehicles but not to start a department.

The sheriff’s department covers the entire county and cannot and do not cover Hanson only, said Sanderson.

And, because other cities have eliminated city law enforcement, “that has spread us even thinner,” said Sanderson.

Most of the 911 calls across the county are handled now by the sheriff’s department and although Kentucky State Police will rotate calls from Hanson as well as the sheriff’s department, they are working on a shortage as well.

Police respond to Madisonville Walmart about 700 times per year on average, said Sanderson.

Hanson is facing a large influx of people due to new businesses opening soon and with more to follow, he said.

sheriff walmart

“I don’t know if Hanson has needed a police officer in the past because, historically, they have been one of the areas we have responded to the least. But, with everything that is about to happen,” said Sanderson, “I think Hanson is to the point where, you need to start working on establishing a police presence, and you are on the right track. We can’t guarantee we will always be in Hanson and especially if there is something big happening in the south end of the county.”

Sanderson offered an idea to assist Hanson with law enforcement is to make over-time available to Hopkins County deputies and for the city of Hanson to pay for the overtime.

Sanderson said Hanson must be willing to reimburse the extra time deputies spend in Hanson, and he said that does not mean regular patrol just the extra overtime scheduled.

If Hanson wants to venture down that road, and a deputy wants to work overtime, then that deputy would be dedicated to Hanson for that designated block of time, said Sanderson.

He said costs would include the deputy’s hourly rate, and at time and one-half for working the overtime, and other added expenses such as contributing to insurance, retirement and Social Security.

“You know what you can afford to spend and when you want to start, and I have some deputies who have said they would be interested,” said Sanderson.

Sanderson said his concern is not so much the city of Hanson but with everything that is happening from U.S. 41 down to the Western Kentucky Veterans Center.

With the new businesses popping up through that corridor, the bank, the school, old businesses already along that route, a new traffic light, on and off ramps for the parkway, county convenience center, the veteran’s center and Carhartt, traffic is going to be very heavy.

“My opinion is, for sure, down the road, you will need a police officer,” said Sanderson. “And, once those new tax dollars are coming in and you feel like you can afford it, I think that is something you will need.”

DeMoss said it’s something that needs to be discussed and eventually it’s going to have to happen, but “we have to have the ability to pay for it.”

“I like the idea of being able to get deputies down here at certain periods of time and at different times of the days,” said DeMoss.

Sanderson said the period of time with more activity is usually 10 a.m. -10 p.m.

“I think we would want to look at scheduling in those times,” he said. “You tell us the amount of hours and the times, and we can try to make it happen.”

Council member Carlis Oakley asked Sanderson about the possibility of hiring a retired police officer.

Sanderson said sheriff’s offices and cities are able to do that, so it saves because the officer is already drawing retirement and already has insurance.

He said basically someone that is working under a retired plan like that is just going to cost an entity or city an hourly rate.

Council member Brandon Marsh asked how the city would go about establishing a police department, Sanderson said it was not his area of expertise, but the city would most likely have to pass an ordinance establishing a police department and he advised the council to consult their city attorney.

Marsh said after a police department is established, there are grants available for uniforms, radios, guns, tasers and even cars.

Citizen Judy Harrah asked if it would be cheaper to hire a retiree other than paying for a deputy at time and one-half?

Marsh said, “Yes, in the long run it probably would be cheaper, but there are things that must be established and it would take time to do it.”

DeMoss said Sanderson had provided the information needed to get the process started.

“How soon are we going to do this? I don’t know,” DeMoss said. “It all depends on the availably of funds in the future.”

Sanderson told the council he and his office would be happy to help Hanson come up with costs of equipment and what it would cost to establish a police department.

He advised the council that in his opinion, they should hire someone with experience.

DeMoss said the council will look at the options and he appointed a committee to study the financial aspects to make a decision.

“Everybody is in agreement that we need to do something, on the other hand, what can we afford?” asked DeMoss.

DeMoss said with paying a deputy, they would not have to incur all the extra insurance and liability expenses.

“It may end up costing us more money,” said Marsh.

“How much do you think the liability will cost the city and how much do you think a car will cost?” asked DeMoss.

Marsh replied, “We can think about it all day but that is what the committee is for.”

DeMoss asked the committee to report at next meeting on their cost findings to implement and run a police department.

Marsh questioned Sanderson on an exact figure to employ a deputy as Sanderson discussed.

Sanderson said he would have to sit down with the county treasurer and go through the figures.

Marsh asked if it would be close to $36 per hour.

“Yes, at least that,” said Sanderson.

“Is Hanson going to be a sitting duck without a constant police presence?” asked a member of the audience.

Sanderson said, there are professional shoplifters and they will target Hanson Walmart. With the easy on/off of I-69, “I think that will keep law enforcement busy.”

Citizen Jimmy Epley asked Sanderson how alcohol sales would affect the need for law enforcement in Hanson.

Sanderson said the city would first have to conduct a wet/dry election and if the city is voted wet, there must be someone in the city to act as Alcoholic Beverage Control agent.

“You don’t have to have a police department, but you do have to have an Alcoholic Beverage Control agent,” said Sanderson. “It would be my opinion, if the city goes wet, you definitely want a police officer here.”

When asked what Walmart’s situation is on alcohol sales, DeMoss said Walmart is in the business of selling retail.

“Walmart is going to want to sell anything they are capable of selling,” he said.

DeMoss said a wet/dry election must be conducted and it can be a special election.

He the legislature just passed a bill that will go into effect in July that “any city can have a wet/dry election as long as the city is incorporated, and it does not matter what the population of a city is. Walmart is going to want to stock that store with what sells,” said DeMoss.

A letter was written to the council from Walmart Public Relations Kevin Thompson.

The letter stated that although there were rumors circulating, “Walmart in no way would supplement or help fund a police or fire department for the city of Hanson.”

Thompson’s letter stressed that Walmart is excited to be coming to Hanson and is committed to working with Hanson and its city leaders, community members and citizens to ensure success.

Hub owner Vanessa Riggs asked if the city could petition the state to lower the speed limit in the downtown area from CSX to the veteran’s center.

Sanderson said the state uses accident statistics to decide if a speed reduction is warranted.

“Signs can only do so much,” said Marsh, “and, again, a police officer is needed to help enforce speed limits.”

In other business, sealed bids were opened for the sale of a surplus property tractor and was awarded to Trey Taylor for $1,106.

The 2016-2017 fiscal budget was presented to the commissioners by the mayor as was an amendment to the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget due to added expenses of painting and repair to the fire department and water line expenses.

Minutes of April 26 and May 13 meetings were passed as was the treasurer’s report.

Meeting was adjourned and the next meeting will be the last Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m.

Tammy Holloway
SurfKY News Reporter
SurfKY Video/Photos by Gary Gates

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