Diamondhead council defends hiring chief
By Dwayne Bremer
Mar 19, 2013, 18:00
After recent criticism over the hiring of new police Chief Alan Weatherford, Diamondhead leaders on Monday defended the move at the city council meeting.
Weatherford, a highly-decorated law enforcement veteran, was hired last month. He spent the past six years as the police chief in Gulfport.
Currently, the city is contracting with the sheriff's office to provide police services and is not expected to transition to its own police department until the end of the year.
Since Weatherford was brought onboard, some have questioned the timing of the hire and others have questioned why a Diamondhead resident was not named chief.
On Monday, Weatherford asked the city council to approve three applications for grants for the city for the 2014 fiscal year.
The grants included more than $30,000 for hand-held radios, portable breath tests, overtime, and other equipment.
The grants are not guaranteed to be approved, but they had to be applied for by the end of the month, Weatherford said.
City leaders said obtaining grants is just one of the things Weatherford will be doing in the next few months.
"I want to thank the chief for finding us $30,000 we would not have had without him being here," Mayor Chuck Ingraham said.
City Manager Richard Rose said Tuesday that the city will also be applying for more grants next month, which could bring the total up to $90,000.
City Attorney Bragg Williams said starting a police department from scratch is not an easy undertaking.
"It's not like you can just hire seven officers and get some cars and say let's start Monday," Williams said. "It takes time."
In addition to Weatherford, the city has also hired two other top officials who do not live in the city.
Rose and Public Works Director Richard Sullivan both live in Harrison County.
Councilwoman Dianne Ackerman said the city does not have a residency requirement on hirings, and the people hired are the "most qualified."
Despite not living in the city, the employees still contribute to the local economy, she said.
"They are shopping here because it is convenient and they are going to lunch at our restaurants," Ackerman said. "We have tried to hire the best qualified people for the job."
Other business discussed at the meeting included:
*Rose informed the council that local technology company NVision is considering moving to the old Diamondhead Academy building.
Rose said the company, which is currently located at the Stennis Tech Park on Highway 603, will bring a viable business and employ up to 45 people.
*Ackerman announced that she will be spear-heading an effort to bring a historic preservation group to the city. Ackerman said she feels it is important that the fledgling city centralize its historical information and safe-keep it for future generations. She also briefed the council on a potential dog park, but said it would probably be best for the Property Owners Association to discuss the issue since the city does not have any available property.
*Councilman Hank Holcomb briefed the council on recent developments with the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority. Holcomb said Diamondhead is in the process of joining the authority; however, it make take another month or two before the city becomes a full member. Holcomb also discussed the creation of a youth council.
*Ingraham announced that funds will soon be available to pave the road leading to Rouses Market and the adjacent shopping center.
*The council approved a resolution with the Hancock County Circuit Clerks office for election materials and assistance with the upcoming municipal election.