Columbus Council OKs crime prevention office, director

After months of discussion and three amendments to the proposal, Columbus Council today finally gave Mayor Jim Wetherington what he wanted: an office of crime prevention with a director and a seven-member board.

Because some councilors objected to setting the director’s pay at Grade 24 with a salary range of $63,208-$96,179, Wetherington agreed to reduce that to Grade 22, for which the annual pay ranges $51,877-$78,938. Council voted 7-3 to approve that, with Skip Henderson, Mike Baker and Evelyn Pugh voting no.

Councilor Gary Allen then offered an amendment to establish a crime prevention board made up of seven members approved by council, with the mayor nominating the chair plus three members, and councilors nominating the other three. Under Allen’s proposal, one of the mayor’s nominees would have had to be the chair of the city's public safety advisory board. Pugh moved to make that a Fort Benning representative, and councilors agreed. Henderson then proposed that two of council’s nominees each represent the city’s two state senatorial districts, and councilors approved that, too.

Council then took a vote on the proposed seven-member board, to which Councilor Mimi Woodson objected because she felt an 11-member board would be more diverse and representative of the community. Council voted 6-4 to go with seven members, noting that the board's make-up could be changed later.

So, the ordinance approved establishes a seven-member board with the mayor nominating the chair and three members each representing Fort Benning, education and public safety, and the council nominating three members, two of whom must live in different senatorial districts. The mayor and council have talked about creating the position of crime prevention director since July. A vote on the proposal failed 5-4 on Oct. 27, as six votes are needed to constitute a majority of the 10-member council.

The director and board with other government agencies would coordinate crime-prevention programs before involving nonprofit groups. With a budget of $931,859 for this fiscal year, the office would be funded from the Local Option Sales Tax voters approved last year.