Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna continued his campaign to see a canine unit established in the City Police Department on Tuesday night, declaring he was tired of excuses and demanded to know when the police department would be prepared to put a drug sniffing dog in place.
"I think the city is missing the boat. We have the dog paid for. Training, medical care and food is paid for. And, I have taken care of the special vehicle needed for the dog. All we are responsible for is the wholesale cost of the vehicle and the training of the police officer who will be the dog handler," Villamagna said during the City Council safety committee meeting.
Villamagna said manpower is not an excuse for the delay, as overtime is given frequently in the city.
"It has taken us over 10 weeks to hire three police officers," he said. "This is getting to be nonsense. We are the only community along the river without a dog. I don't understand why we are not moving forward."
City Manager Tim Boland said he and police Chief Bill McCafferty frequently discuss new hirings. However, Villamagna said this is not true.
"We gave the tests for the new police officers and we have waited weeks to give out the packets for the background checks. I heard the excuse the agility test could not be given. If the school can't do the agility tests then get someone else," Villamagna said.
According to McCafferty, the city does extensive background checks.
"It is always best to determine if there is a problem before we hire a new officer," he said. "Capt. (Ken) Anderson is now making the phone calls and conducting the background checks. But that can take time."
Still, Villamagna was not pleased with that explanation.
"I don't understand why we can't get this done. Pay the overtime. We have to get on the ball. This is important for the police department. Every time I bring something up I get 9 million excuses," Villamagna said.
McCafferty said whomever is selected for the dog handler's job will probably be the same officer who trains the new officers. That position should be filled by the fall, he said.
"We can't wait for the dog. There is no way. Too much is going on in this town. We move guys around all the time. You should see if there are people who can be moved around to make this happen," Villamagna said.
Boland said he had faith in McCafferty and his department, though he understands the urgency of the situation.
"The staff is working in a deliberate and focused way. The current hilltop cleanup is a good example of success if we stay focused," Boland said.
McCafferty said he will work toward an Oct. 1 deadline to have the canine unit in place.