The Homestead City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to add five more police officers to the city’s department.
The city will shell out $278,570 to pay for all costs associated with the new hires during their first year on the job.
Finance Director Carlos Perez said the city will use money accumulated as reserves in the general fund, which is largely taxpayer supported, to cover the cost for the new officers.
“Over the years that money has been built up,” he said. “That is not money normally used to cover recurring expenditures. We were planning on going after the grant to cover 75 percent of these five police officers. The only other way to do it, since we had already balanced the budget, was through the reserves in the general fund.”
Homestead had applied for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which would have awarded the city $625,000 during a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the cost for the five new officers.
Homestead ranked 35th out of 76 governments and entities that applied for the grant. Only the top 16 police departments received grants. According to city records, applicants were ranked based on certain criteria such as crime rate during the last three years, commitment to community policing, layoffs and other cuts to police departments’ budgets, and municipal poverty.
Vice Mayor Jon Burgess told the Miami Herald that the city is overdue in hiring more cops.
“We were a city of about 30,000 people and now the population is 60,000. But the department hasn’t kept up with” the population growth, said Burgess. “We are trying to catch up to where we need to be with the national average.”
In total, Homestead will hire six new officers, brining the total number of its full-time Police Department employees to 148. The City Council previously approved the hiring of one new officer during the recent budget season. The new budget became effective Oct. 1.
In other decisions Wednesday night, the Homestead Council voted to approve the following items:
• A $221,850 contract with water-treatment company, Tonka Water, to refurbish the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant filter system. The company is exempted from competitive bidding per city law, according to city records.
• A $378,979 bid award to a pipeline-rehabilitation company, Miller Pipeline, to fix broken city sewer lines that allow stormwater seepage, increasing the amount of water treated at Homestead’s Waste Water Treatment Plant. Miller Pipeline was the lowest bidder.
• An agreement with a Florida document-imaging company, Advanced Data Solutions, to digitize city records. The city will pay the company a maximum of $150,000.