After vigorous debate, Kirk hired to serve as Kenton police chief

After vigorous debate, Kirk hired to serve as Kenton police chief
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Hiring a new police chief in Kenton proved to be a very difficult task for the Kenton mayor and board of aldermen.
The board met Tuesday night and by a 4-2 vote hired former Union City Police Department officer Kyle Kirk.
Voting for Kirk were board members Angie Choate, Sarah Skinner, Tim Johns and Wade Simpson. Voting against Kirk being hired as police chief were board members Faye Sharp and Delores Agee.
The search for a new police chief to replace Steve Meeks was handled by an ad-hoc committee comprised of Mrs. Choate, acting police commissioner, Mayor Virginia Davidson and Kenton resident Danny Jowers. The committee unanimously recommended Kirk for the position.
“It’s come to my attention there are several board members who don’t like that decision,” Mrs. Choate said at the opening of the discussion Tuesday night.
It was about 30 minutes into the meeting the police chief vacancy was first brought up. Ten minutes later, after a lengthy and passionate explanation supporting Kirk from Mrs. Choate, she made the motion to promote Kirk to the chief’s position and it took another 33 minutes before the actual roll call vote took place.
Mrs. Choate told the board she was only “trying to do what’s right and what’s fair” in hiring Kirk.
Mrs. Skinner and Jowers both spoke out in support of the committee’s recommendation and questioned why the board wouldn’t accept its unanimous decision to promote Kirk to police chief.
“Kyle’s got some training the others don’t have,” Mrs. Choate said.
Kirk worked as a patrolman for the Union City Police Department from December 1999 until September 2010. He is a graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy and was a member of the 27th Judicial District Special Response Team.
Four of the five finalists for the police chief’s position came from inside the Kenton Police Department.
It was made clear throughout Tuesday night’s discussion and debate that all the candidates did a good job presenting themselves for the police chief’s position.
Mrs. Choate said she was “very proud” of the city’s police department and all the finalists did a good job in the interview phase of the process. But, she said, Kirk “gave the best interview.”
The discussion of the police chief’s position dominated Tuesday night’s near 90-minute meeting, taking up nearly an hour of the meeting.
Mrs. Davidson even weighed in on the discussion, saying she was concerned about promoting the “lowest man on the totem pole” to the police chief’s position and how that decision would affect the other officers in the Kenton Police Department.
At one point during the discussion, Mrs. Agee even suggested appointing Gile Allen to the chief’s position, appointing Kirk assistant police chief and having Allen train Kirk to succeed him as chief. That suggestion never went anywhere, however.
“It’s a hard decision, I’ll tell you that,” Mrs. Davidson said.
She voiced her concern over the small field of applicants for the job and even suggested the board readvertise for applicants. That suggestion never went anywhere, either.
The emotionally-charged discussion bounced back and forth among board members and even members of the audience at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“This is a difficult decision,” Simpson said during the discussion. “I don’t think he’s qualified.”
When the roll call vote was finally taken, those supporting Kirk for the police chief’s position had no trouble casting their votes, while those who questioned the appointment appeared filled with anguish over their decision.
In the end, it was Simpson’s vote that made the difference.
Despite questioning Kirk’s qualifications for the job, he ultimately voted for his appointment. As he cast his vote, Simpson added a couple of stipulations to Kirk’s hiring. First, Kirk will be on six months probation as police chief and his job performance will be evaluated monthly.
At the end of the six-month probationary period, the board will consider making Kirk a salaried employee.
After Tuesday night’s vote was taken, Mrs. Agee said, “he’s got my support” and others on the board agreed to support Kirk as the city’s new police chief.
It other action Tuesday night, the Kenton board:
• Was informed by the mayor that the city has received a check in the amount of $60,274 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for claims filed from the May 2010 flooding.
“I was proud of that,” Mrs. Davidson said about the good news. “It was worth the work.”
In a related matter, there was a brief discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting about current flooding in and around the city. Johns said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative is scheduled to visit Kenton this week to check on the flooding. “We’re still watching the water,” Johns told the board.
He said a grant being pursued by the city, if approved, should be used to build a levee and install water pumps to counteract the impact of levees that have been built by farmers in the area.
“We’ve got to have something done,” Mrs. Davidson said.
“We just can’t continue,” Johns added.
He said Kenton’s flooding problems are being caused by area farmers building levees that are forcing floodwaters into the city. Johns said the city is going to have to install its own levees to deal with its ongoing flooding problems.
• Briefly discussed ongoing problems with large trucks speeding in town.
“Something’s going to have to be done,” Mrs. Davidson said. “They’re going to have to be slowed down.”
• Approved the purchase of a used five-ton heating and air conditioning unit from Harry English. The city will pay $2,500 for the unit, which will be installed at the city’s Youth Center. The purchase was recommended by Mrs. Davidson, who said the Youth Center’s current heating and air conditioning unit has “burned up.” The purchase will come from the city’s Parks and Recreation Fund, according to the mayor.
• Approved a pair of resolutions, one establishing internal controls at city hall and a second resolution establishing guidelines for the use of city-owned credit cards.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 12.7.11

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