Stone Mountain considering pay raise for police officers

Stone Mountain Police Department Interim Chief J. R. Westerfield with his son J. R. III during a ceremony honoring retiring Stone Mountain Chief of Police Chancey Troutman in Stone Mountain Village on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Westerfield has been named interim chief while the city awaits placement of a permanent chief of police. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Tenesha L. Curtis, contributor 

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council meeting covered police compensation, parking downtown, and more at an in-person work session on Tuesday, June 21st.

A law enforcement officer salary increase was proposed by Interim City Manager Warren Hutmacher. He recommended raising the base salary from $41,000 to $50,000. This would make salaries more competitive than the average starting salary of $49,000 in other counties and cities. He proposed using American Rescue Plan funds for a $10,000 retention bonus.

“We are having difficulty to find qualified people,” Interim Chief J. R. Westerfield noted while supporting the raise for officers.

During the work session, several officers were recognized for outstanding services and given certificates, including one officer who had already submitted his resignation from the department.

Officers are being recruited by other agencies such as Rockdale County and the City of Dunwoody. Larger staff at these departments eases the workload on each individual officer and starting salaries are higher, making the opportunities more lucrative than remaining employed by the City of Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain officers have to play multiple roles in the department, such as field training, translation, and traffic control. But they do it without any additional compensation, while other agencies do offer additional compensation for any responsibilities added to an officer’s workload.

In other business:

– The city council continued discussing renaming the renaming of East / West Mountain Street after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hutmacher said that there were multiple options for renaming street signs within Stone Mountain. Two viable options were honorary street signs and street sign toppers. The honorary signs would be installed on the same pole just above the current street signs. These signs could be changed every few years to honor a different person or event.

According to Hutmacher, an honorary street sign “does not change the address or any of the legal classifications of streets.” These signs would be decorative. The toppers would work similarly. They are smaller and are attached to the top edge of current street signs. These toppers are more commonly used to differentiate between neighborhoods within a city, but could be used for honorary naming purposes.

– Hutmacher presented multiple strategies to the council for addressing the current complaints from business owners and residents about a lack of parking in Stone Mountain Village.

Hutmacher summarized the complaints as “at certain times or during certain events there is a shortage of available, visible parking within a short distance of the core area of the business district.”

According to a parking inventory completed by the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2018, there are just over 1,000 parking spots in the core downtown area. Of those spaces, there are just over 150 public parking spots available. Hutmacher presented three options he believed could help to alleviate the problem.

The first option was to limit the amount of time people are allowed to park in a specific spot to increase space turnover. The second was to begin charging for parking to decrease the demand for spaces. The third was to create additional parking in areas where it is needed to increase supply.

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