By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
City of Parsons Police Chief Kevin Keplinger addressed the Parsons City Council about his department’s eligibility for the Governor’s Highway Safety Program funding. The funding would allow the department to begin a series of Distracted Driving Enforcement Patrols.
Keplinger said the updating of equipment has led to the department’s eligibility. “We’ve been moving forward with different areas within our department,” Keplinger said. “The mobile data terminals in the cars. We put in the wifi hot spots that we use. All that has made us eligible for a Governor’s Highway Safety Program funding.”
According to Keplinger, the emphasis of the program changes throughout the year. “Throughout the year, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program does various areas of emphasis,” Keplinger said. “Right now it is distracted driving…Next month it might be Click it or Ticket, it may be child safety seats.”
Keplinger said he would handle all the paperwork with the Governor’s representative in Fairmont. Keplinger also said the program is a reimbursement program with the patrolman initially being paid overtime through the city for the Emphasis Patrols.“He’ll report his hours on our timesheet which will be turned in and then what I will do I, I will turn in a grand total tally sheet to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, not on his overtime sheet or his overtime rate, but what the actual cost to the city is,” Keplinger said. “Which is a little bit different.”
Keplinger said there were fixed costs to the city for employees. “It was something…that I didn’t really realize. I was like time and a half is time and a half. Well, not necessarily when you’re dealing with the city,” Keplinger said. “There are fixed costs.”
According to Keplinger, the city would be reimbursed for the patrolman’s wage and all associated fixed costs while he is performing the patrols. “So, the city will not be out any money at all with these,” Keplinger said. “We will be reimbursed for the fixed cost, the cost that would actually cost him to be out there with his retirement, workers comp. You know, all the costs we have, but he would actually be paid his time and a half rate.”
Keplinger said he had the availability of $800 from the program for this period. “I have the opportunity, the option or the availability of $800 for this period,” Keplinger said. “Now that’s up to.”
Keplinger also said he does not anticipate using the entire amount. “I don’t anticipate using that much,” Keplinger said. “But I would like for permission for him to be able to work a few of these patrols.”
Keplinger said the patrols would be targeting Distracted Driving. According to Keplinger, Distracted Driving is any device held in a person’s hand, even a cell phone on speaker. According to Keplinger, all hand-held devices must be mounted or Bluetooth in order to not qualify as Distracted Driving. “It would be a two-hour, three hour, four hour Distracted Driving Patrol, which would be looking for hand held items, hand held phones, that type of thing,” Keplinger said.
Keplinger did say to the council that while the focus was on Distracted Driving, any other violations the patrolman encountered during his patrol could be handled as well. “Now any other traffic enforcement that he comes across throughout that patrol period, obviously he can handle,” Keplinger said. “So he would still be looking at speeding, he would still be looking at equipment violations, but the emphasis of the patrol would be, in this case, distracted driving.”
Keplinger said the patrolman is interested in doing the patrols. “These would be done on top of his normal work,” Keplinger said. “He is definitely interested in doing it,” Keplinger said. “So, it wouldn’t be something that he would be drafted. He would volunteer for, but he is definitely interested doing that.”
“What’s the turnaround on the reimbursement?” Council Member Tim Auvil said.
“Its fairly quick,” Keplinger said. “We turn it in and they cut a check to the city.”
The Council unanimously approved a motion to accept the Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant.