Residents make pleas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 6, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

A standing-room-only crowd jammed the City Council chambers Wednesday, as more than two dozen city employees and residents offered local lawmakers their 2 cents on the city’s proposed $277 million budget.

Citizens gave council members an earful: Give police officers a 10 percent across-the-board pay raise. Cut the city’s $300,000 travel and training budget. Reduce the city’s $1.08 tax rate. Leave the tax rate at its existing level.

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Both Police Officer Mike Harris and Mike Imprevento, an attorney representing the police union, said the city needs to focus on the retention of police officers.

&uot;An average of 100 years of veteran police experience has left the police force in the past nine months,&uot; said Imprevento. Most of the officers have left for higher paying jobs because they felt a &uot;resounding lack of hope&uot; in getting more than a 4 or 5 percent pay raise in Suffolk.

Harris, speaking on behalf of dozens of police officers who packed the room, urged council for give officers a double-digit raise.

Their appeal garnered support from several residents, including Donna Perry, president of the Citizens Academy Alumni of Suffolk.

&uot;Citizens of Suffolk are not safe,&uot; Perry said. &uot;We are growing at a rate of 1,000 homes a year and we have a critical manpower problem. We’ve down 29 officers right now.&uot;

John Harrell, chairman of the Industrial Development Authority, urged to continue funding the board’s closure fund. In recent years, the council has invested $1 million annually in the fund; the proposed budget cuts the allocation by 50 percent.

&uot;Suffolk is able to keep up with its residential growth because of its industrial growth,&uot; said Harrell.

&uot;If you are going to shorten the train, don’t cut the engine.&uot;

Along with a handful of other speakers, Roger Leonard, who lost his bid for the Whaleyville City Council seat in Tuesday’s election, urged council to look for ways to reduce the city’s $1.08 tax rate by as much as 5 cents.