Two members of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to use proceeds from the five-eighths cent sales tax approved by voters for the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative to cover the costs of increasing the clothing allowance for police and firefighters.
A proposed ordinance to increase the current amount from $600 to $800 annually for police officers was read for the first time at the council meeting last week. That ordinance has now been amended to also include members of the fire department and was considered by Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. Tuesday. The third member of the committee, Alderman Bill Brumett, was absent.
Holcomb asked where the funds were going to come from to pay for the increase, and Walker suggested using money collected from the sales tax, then made that in the form of a motion which she and Holcomb voted to approve.
Ken Smith, the owner of Arkansas Police Products in Pine Bluff, provided Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield with a list of the costs associated with a standard uniform and equipment for an officer, which included $53.95 for a long sleeve shirt, $49.95 for a short sleeve shirt, $48.95 for a pair of pants, $89.95 for a campaign hat, $49.95 for an insignia for the hat, $69.95 for a light weight jacket, $249.95 for a winter jacket, $79.95 for a raincoat, $159.95 for a pair of dress boots, $99.95 for a pair of tactical boots and $296.95 for a duty rig including holster, pouches, belt, etc. Larger sizes in shirts, pants and jackets cost 20 to 30 percent more, Smith said in a fax Whitfield.
Those costs do not include the Pine Bluff sales tax of 10.375 percent.
Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell told the committee that he would prepare a similar list for them on the costs associated with outfitting a firefighter.
Increasing the clothing allowance was one of several items proposed by Whitfield, who is retiring at the end of February, as a way to increase the salaries and benefits of officers and reduce the chance of them leaving for another department.
A second proposal by Whitfield was to give senior officers with at least 20 years of service up to four vacation days. An ordinance reflecting that was also read for the first time during the last council meeting.
Howell told the committee that the city attorney’s office is working on a proposed ordinance that would give firefighters with at least 20 years of service the same vacation time.
Walker and Holcomb also voted to recommend that the ordinance be adopted.