Rochelle Mayor and Council terminate Police Chief and name Ron Hollis as Interim Chief

Published 10:48 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Lucas C. Allison

Dispatch Correspondent

The Rochelle City Council held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday April 05, 2023; present were Mayor Wayne McGuinty along with Council members John McDonald, Herman Green, Vickie Kemp and Carolyn Grace.  Councilman Greg Lamb was absent. Interim Police Chief Ron Hollis gave the monthly police report he reported he didn’t have the call breakdown due to only being appointed interim chief just a few days ago.  He reported the department responded to a total of 196 calls, he stated we will all work together to make sure the citizens are protected.  Mayor McGuinty then introduced Rod Lawson as the new Assistant Fire Chief for Rochelle Fire Department, he stated he will do a great job in the position.  Mr. Michael Gaines gave the maintenance and streets report.  The next agenda item was a beer license for the BOBBY’s Convenience Store located on First Avenue.  The business currently has a license, but it is changing ownership. The new owner is Savitaben Patel.  All the paperwork has been completed and background checks have been completed and are good. On a motion by Councilman Green seconded by Councilman McDonald the license was approved on a 3 yay and 1 abstaining Councilwoman Vickie Kemp.   

Mrs. Danielle Miller voiced her concerns with a member of the police department being rude to her during a traffic stop where she was cited for failure to stop for a stop sign.  Mayor McGuinty explained to her that items dealing with specific citations are not handled at city council meetings, but the judge of Rochelle Municipal Court is who you present your defense to.  He stated however you also have the right to file a complaint regarding the officer’s behavior with the department.  There were questions raised if the patrol cars had dash cameras which it was noted they do not however officers do have body cameras.  Councilwoman Kemp inquired as to whether the citizen could view the body cam footage prior to court.  Capt. Mueller responded it could not be made available as it was case evidence.  Mrs. Miller was advised to contact police clerk Amanda Neal who was present the next day to solve any issues with her court date.  Officers in attendance were introduced to council members officers Misty Eno, Tommy Ryan , Captain Martin Mueller and police clerk Amanda Neal.  Mayor McGunity reported the Georgia Bureau of Investigation s completed an audit on the Georgia Crime Information Center terminal procedures and operations.  Mrs. Neal was informed by auditors she was the Terminal Agency Coordinator.  The audit is done to make sure Federal Bureau of Investigation standards and procedures are followed as to operation of the terminal which can access driver records, also criminal backgrounds and wants and warrants.  The audit is not a pass or fail if there are non-compliance issues listed, and the agency has ten days to respond to the issues noted and actions taken to bring back in compliance.  One officer training was not current due to the system being down as soon as the training is back online his will be made current.  The audit is done every three years. TAC person is responsible for Security Awareness Training and making sure if an employee leaves their access to the terminal is ended.  Mayor McGuinty reported that a grant had been applied for to cover the cost of inventorying all copper and lead pipes in use in the city water and sewer systems.  There will also be government funding available to cover the costs related to removing the lead and copper pipes and replacing them.   He reported he had contacted DNR, GDOT, and they only deal with beavers if they are flooding major roadways, they do not help with beaver removal on private property.  Mayor McGuinty reported the annual financial audit is in process and the city has had to open some new accounts  to keep better accountability on different funding sources.  The Family Dollar/Dollar Tree store renovations are proceeding they anticipate being completed and opening the first part of the summer.  They had inquired about a license to sell beer and wine, however as of this date no application has been submitted.  Mayor McGuinty stated that the owners of La Calandria the Mexican Food truck are opening a second location on Stephens Street at the old Vera’s building next to the laundromat and had inquired about the ability to sell alcohol for on premise consumption at the location.  According to city ordinance Chapter 16 Section 8 prohibits selling of alcohol beverage within 100 feet of a church, there is no state prohibition only the city code. Also note there is a recognized church within the 100 ft prohibition.  The only way an alcoholic beverage license can be granted is if the city changes the city ordinance,  he stated he was presenting the matter for information only.  Mayor McGuinty then presented an update on the Comprehensive Plan for service delivery which is updated once every five years.  The county had sent the city a letter requesting Rochelle pay $6381.00, based on the total cost charged by the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission for assisting the cities and county in updating the plan.  He stated that Rochelle Council had decided they would not pay as they felt it was taxing the citizens of Rochelle twice as they pay county taxes in addition to city taxes.  Mayor McGuinty stated it was reported to him at the County Commission meeting the previous night County Manager had stated that if the city didn’t pay their portion, they could be black balled when it came to receiving grants etc. from the government.  He stated he had spoken with Mandy Britt from Heart of Georgia Regional Commission, and she advised him that as long as the city presents their service delivery items and was in full compliance with the requirements.  The council approved the upcoming Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST)4 items for the funds to be spent on as follows:  $25000.00 to Repair and upgrade City Barn, $70,000.00 for tractor with a grapple bucket and mower, $12,000.00 for a new Zero Turn mower, $45,000.00 for new police vehicle(s), $32,000.00 to repair or replace AC units at City Hall with a total projected cost of $184,000.00.  The mayor stated he would email the list to the County Manager after the meeting.  Councilwoman Vickie Kemp requested new blinds be put up in the Community Center, Councilman  Green recommended repainting the sign to reflect only community center.  Several citizens complaints of no street lights or street lights not working. Chief Hollis was asked to have his officers report any they find out or where ones are needed, and they will get the work completed.  Mrs. Neal reported that she was notified by Synergistic Software Integrated (SSI) that the former chief had contracted to use their software in January or February 2022 and that part of the user agreement states that SSI shall receive $24.00 for each citation that is paid through SSI.  February 2023 to March 2023 there were 215  paid citations for a total of $5160.00 that is owed to SSI.  Mrs. Neal stated that on a $135 citation the city was only receiving $9 before expenses.  She also stated that there were numerous cases where offenders have Failed to Appear when this happens, she must send them a letter giving them 30 days to come to respond if they fail again another letter must be sent informing them their license will be reported to Department of Motor Vehicles for license suspension there is a lot of cost in this process which is not being recovered.  The council approved a motion to add a $30 citation remittance fee to each paid citation effective immediately.  The council then entered Executive Session to discuss personnel matters and real estate.  The Council resumed the regular meeting session . The council approved to ratify the decision to terminate former Police Chief Kyle Barfield effective March 31, 2023, for failing to perform duties as outlined by the Rochelle City Council and Mayor.  They also approved the sale of the property on Gordon Street with the concrete slab and the old Ithaca building to Mr. J.G. Willins for the sum of $50,000.00 on a 24-month contract pending U.S.D.A approval of site a $1000.00 Earnest Money deposit was placed with the city.  The meeting was adjourned.  The Rochelle City Council meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7p.m., in City Hall council chambers.