Ringgold will make it clear to city employees that its vehicles are subject to GPS tracking.

Mayor Nick Millwood, during the June 22 City Council meeting, said the measure will be added to the employee handbook.

“We reserve the right to know where our vehicles are and how they are used for city purposes,” Millwood said, adding that these vehicles should be tracked for safety and accountability.

In late January, then police chief Dan Bilbrey, after nearly a decade at the job, resigned for several reasons, including a complaint that City Manager Dan Wright placed a tracker on his vehicle without his knowledge.

In late February, the council decided to launch an inquiry into that allegation, plus charges from Bilbrey that the police department had been overlooked, underfunded and understaffed.

The council’s inquiry, according to the proclamation detailing the purpose of the inquiry, was set up to investigate “budgetary concerns, tracker placement procedures, equipment in vehicles, compensation and benefits, and usable space in the police department.”

At the June 22 council meeting, Millwood addressed each of these topics.

The mayor, pointing out that the city has increased the police department budget by 111 percent during the past 11 years, said the inquiry found there are some areas where morale and working conditions can be improved.

“This (inquiry) report is designed to show specific improvements we are in the midst of implementing,” Millwood said.

He said the city is committed to having an “updated and dependable” police fleet. The city has, since 2016, approved the purchased of seven new police vehicles, five of which are already on the road and two that are currently out for bid, he said. The city is also committed to keeping up-to-date body tasers, guns, body cameras, and computers for vehicles, he said.

Regarding benefits and pay for police, Millwood said the city is improving in two areas: health care and pay for part-timers.

The city is increasing its contributions on health care from 50% to 70%, which would save a family about $200 to $260 per month on health care premiums. He added that this is being implemented for all city employees.

Millwood said the city, during its inquiry, discovered it should be more competitive in part-time pay, so it’s raising the pay scale for these employees.

Finally Millwood said the city is committed to finishing an unfinished 640-square-foot upstairs area at City Hall, which will add to the 2,102 square feet of City Hall currently being used. The police department will use the upstairs area.

Don Stilwell is editor for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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