Centralia Fireside Guard

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Centralia looking for new chief of police

Posted on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at 2:31 pm

The man who has been one of the faces of Centralia and Boone County public safety for more than a decade is taking a break.

Bob Bias, chief of the Centralia Police Department, former chief of the Hallsville Police Department and former Boone County Fire Protection District firefighter has told the Centralia Fireside Guard he will retire from the helm of the Centralia Police Department, effective October 10.

Concerned citizens holding signs regarding Centralia Police Chief Bob Bias’ retirement from the Centralia Police Department. Perhaps a dozen people stood in Centralia City Square Park across from Centralia City Hall the morning of Monday, October 4 to express their concern with the situation.

Centralia’s Board of Aldermen appointed him to the job, September 2018, from a pool of 11 applicants, to replace the city’s previous police chief Larry Dudgeon, who had served as chief of the CPD for 11 years.

Though on-the-record comments are scarce, the Bias’s announcement was preceded by a September 23 closed session of the Centralia Board of Aldermen.

According to the draft minutes of that meeting, no vote was taken.

Signs, four as of October 1, have been placed around Centralia, asking for Bias’s reinstatement and encouraging people to attend the October 11 meeting of Centralia’s Board of Aldermen.

Referring to the opinion of Cydney Mayfield, Centralia city attorney, Chris Cox Centralia mayor said he could offer only limited comment due to Mayfield’s opinion that he and the rest of the city staff are restricted by the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, AKA, the “Sunshine Law.”

He confirmed that Bias was retiring with severance.

“We offered and he has accepted a severance package,” Cox said.

Cox had previously voiced concerns regarding leadership at the CPD and had temporarily placed Bias on administrative leave for a few days in October 2019 while investigating the arrest of a former CPD officer by federal authorities. Afterward, Cox had told the Fireside Guard that Bias had been “completely exonerated.”

Bias also confirmed that, adding that he is tired, “it is time for a break, time to spend time with my grandchildren and look for a new direction in life. I am not sure what my future in law enforcement holds.”

At a scheduled protest, late Monday morning, October 4, where perhaps a dozen people attended, some holding signs asking for Bias’ reinstatement, people expressed dissatisfaction with the situation.

“That is a lie,”  Jodie Roberts said as she stood in the city square park  holding an orange sign calling for Bias’ reinstatement. “He did not retire. I don’t believe that for a second… I am concerned about our police department, their safety, our safety. We don’t need city officials running this town. We need the police department running this town. The police should be allowed to run their own department, not the people in city hall. I am just extremely disappointed.”

Another person on the square, Michael Bardwell, also shared his concern.

“I’ve been a citizen of Centralia for six years now. I see what’s going on and I’ve got nothing but respect for this police department.”

He said news of Bias’ impending departure: “was a shock, a total shock, it came out of left field. The majority of the people in this town were in the dark about it… To have this many people come out and support the chief, support the department, that speaks volumes.”

Bardwell said he did not know if the gathering would make a difference.

“I will leave that up to the powers-that-be,” he said. “I would rather let due process take its course… If something is wrong, be it on the chief’s side or the city council’s side we need answers for good or for bad. It is not a matter of laying the blame on one side or another. It’s getting to the bottom of it, we will deal with who is responsible later. That’s going to be saved for the city council meeting coming up the 11th.”

Among the volumes spoken were conversations  on social media directed at Heather Russell, Centralia city administrator, critiquing how funds from the city police and fire fighters’ tax has been spent as well as the number of full-time officers currently on the force.

She addressed those, as well as the plans for CPD administration in an emailed memo addressed to ‘Concerned Citizens.”

It says, in part:

“We are currently looking to appoint an Interim Chief from internal candidates from the Centralia Police Department. Officers have been notified that if they would like to be considered for this position to send their information by Wednesday, October 6, 2021. The lieutenant should be the obvious choice, but from conversations with him prior to the Chief’s resignation, the lieutenant indicated to me that he did not want to be in that position again. Out of respect of those conversations, it has not been assumed that he wished fill in as interim chief.

A recruitment package has been developed and once approved internally will be posted publicly to begin recruitment of a new Chief of Police. The City hesitates to hire new officers in the interim simply because we feel that the new Chief may be interested in hiring for those positions himself. We currently have 8 full-time officers, which is the amount we had in 2018-19. The chief will be the 9th officer and a new hire shortly there-after will be the 10th so that our department will be fully staffed once again.

I have had conversations with several officers and dispatchers in the police department over the past couple of days, and they have indicated to me that there will be a continuation of the quality services that our citizens deserve. These officers have said that serving the community is their top priority and they will honor their commitment. As with all departments of the City of Centralia, administration included, our priority is providing essential, quality services to our citizens. We will continue to make every effort to hold true to our commitment.”

Editor’s note: This is the entire memo — 

Links:

2018-2019 Annual Budget:

https://www.centraliamo.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/finance/page/1778/city_b

udget_fy19.pdf

2019-2020 Annual Budget:

https://www.centraliamo.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/finance/page/1902/city_b

udget_fy20.pdf

2020-2021 Annual Budget:

https://www.centraliamo.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/finance/page/1772/fy2020

-21_city_of_centralia_budget_-_final.pdf

2021-2022 Annual Budget:

https://www.centraliamo.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/finance/page/3821/city_of

_centralia_fy2021-22_budget_activity_report.pdf

The City’s fiscal year runs from April 1st – March 31st each year.

Public Safety Sales Tax

This tax was passed in 2018 and collection began in April 2019. The initial split was 75% to

the Police and 25% to the Fire. The entire Public Safety Sales Tax was budgeted at $205,000

and only received $163,134 in this fund, but still provided additional police staffing that first

year.

The City held off hiring the additional 2 officers at the beginning of fiscal year 2019-20 to

bring our sworn full-time officer total from 8 to 10 because we were unsure how much

money would be generated from this sales tax. However, two new officers were appointed

full-time: Logan Feger on 5/1/2019 and Zach Foltz on 5/29/2019. The staff count remained at

10 until July 2020.

July 2020 the City was experiencing a lot of uncertainty, along with the rest of the world, due

to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many forecasts were calling for a 10% – 25% decrease in sales tax

dollars, which meant that cities were scrambling to keep up with current budget projections.

All large projects, except for the water treatment plant upgrades because that project is

funded by the Missouri Department of Revenue State Revolving Funds, ceased until the 4th

quarter of the calendar year 2020 (which is the 3rd quarter of our fiscal year) because of this

uncertainty. The 4th quarter happens to be in the winter, and we determined it was best for

our crews to hold off on the animal facility upgrades until the following year (2021). This

projected tax shortage was discussed during open forum on May 8, 2020. The meeting

packet with a memo from me outlining the projections is available here:

https://www.centraliamo.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/general_government_amp

_public_safety_committee/meeting/1800/20200511_ggpsagenda.pdf

The Board of Aldermen agreed to a reduction in force (RIF) that was City-wide. We did not

replace a member of the electric department that had left, and eliminated one position each

at City Hall, the Police Department, and Dispatch.

Revenues fared better than expected or projected during 2020, and we were able to hire for

the positions in the electric department, the police department, and dispatch. We still have

not yet replaced the full-time position at City hall and have been essentially running shortstaffed

since July 2020.

The CPD portion of the public safety sales tax is to provide those two new positions. With

salary and benefits, the cost is over $100,000.

In the 2021-22 budget, the Board decided to split the public safety sales tax money

differently. We now put 10% off the top into an account to accumulate money to purchase

equipment. The cost of a fire truck can be anywhere from $500,000 – $1M, so planning is

essential. Since we are now splitting the remaining 90% of the budgeted amount 50/50

between the Fire and Police, this takes up all the public safety sales tax money allotted to the

PD for the two additional positions. It’s also important to keep in mind that City employees

are on a 4-year plan to receive 5% pay increases, which increases the cost of paying those

two additional employees.

The fire department has ordered and should be receiving self-contained breathing apparatus

(SCBA) equipment within the next few months. This purchase was approved in December

2020, and we applied for a grant to help off-set the costs but did not receive the grant. The

Board re-approved the purchase in May 2021 in the amount of about $134,000. The agenda

packet can be found here: https://towncloud.io/go/centralia-mo/agendas/41

We purchased new turn-out gear for all firefighters on 3/31/2020 in the amount of

$39,074.50.

Public Safety Budget

There is a summary provided in the 2021-22 budget that outlines the annual budget for all

public safety on page 33. The FY2018-19 public safety budget was $930,829.

The CPD budget went over their budgeted allowances in FY2019-20 by $37,383, and under in

FY2020-21 by $52,444. The under-budget amount in FY2020-21 is partially because the

animal holding facility was not completed in FY2020-21 and was budgeted again in FY2021-

22. However, we did purchase a new animal control vehicle in FY2020-21 as promised.

The animal holding facility is still in the budget for the current fiscal year. To keep the project

within budget with rising construction costs, we are utilizing assistance from other city

departments. There is a floor plan for the project, but we are still looking making it work

within the budgeted amount of $43,000.

The overall budget for the CPD in the current year is $51,025 more than last year. This

included replacing 4 old police cars with 3 brand new SUV’s.

Please note: The CPD budget is prepared in cooperation with the Chief of Police and his

Lieutenant. All needs, wants, and wishes are discussed, and we develop this budget together

to present it to the Board of Aldermen. There are several budget meetings throughout the

year that are held between department heads to make sure the next year’s budget is

reflective of what the department needs.

Below is a copy of that summary:

PUBLIC SAFETY PROGRAM

Police Protection Subtotal 980,414 1 ,017,797 984,762 932,318 1 ,035,787

210

Planng/Admin/Invstgatn/

Training 120,722 139,217 154,222 127,345 162,777

212 Patrol/Law Enforcement 602,015 591,855 503,520 546,086 638,442

213

Communication/Cler.

Support 242,902 264,179 258,627 229,954 215,138

214 Building & Grounds 14,225 22,546 24,007 19,435 9,950

215 School Resource Officer 550 – 44,386 9,499 9,480

Fire Protection Subtotal 170,440 146,035 189,640 8 9,104 205,800

221

Planning/Administration/

Training 11,750 1 3,992 1 9,140 6,671 2 0,000

222 Fire Fighting 147,990 125,024 159,550 75,424 175,850

224 Building & Grounds 10,700 7,018 10,950 7,010 9,950

Protective Inspection Subtotal 28,750 2 2,507 2 3,250 3 5,343 3 7,100

234

Building, Health and

Safety Inspct 28,750 2 2,507 2 3,250 3 5,343 3 7,100

Emergency Management Subtotal 6 14 – 8 91 1,066 700

241

Admin/Training/Operatio

ns 6 14 – 8 91 1,066 700

Other Public Safety Subtotal 70,056 4 5,959 9 5,175 6 1,698 100,802

251 Rabies/Animal Control 49,904 27,825 74,077 45,133 72,303

253

Weed, Nuisance & Pest

Control 20,152 1 8,133 2 1,098 1 6,566 2 8,498

PUBLIC SAFETY TOTAL $ 1,250,274 $ 1,232,298 $ 1,293,718 $ 1,119,531 $ 1,380,188

FY2019-20

AUDITED

FY2020

 

Plan Moving Forward:

We are currently looking to appoint an Interim Chief from internal candidates from the

Centralia Police Department. Officers have been notified that if they would like to be

considered for this position to send their information by Wednesday, October 6, 2021. The

Lieutenant should be the obvious choice, but from conversations with him prior to the

Chief’s resignation, the Lieutenant indicated to me that he did not want to be in that position

again. Out of respect of those conversations, it has not been assumed that he wished fill in as

Interim Chief.

A recruitment package has been developed and once approved internally will be posted

publicly to begin recruitment of a new Chief of Police. The City hesitates to hire new officers

in the interim simply because we feel that the new Chief may be interested in hiring for

those positions himself. We currently have 8 full-time officers, which is the amount we had in

2018-19. The Chief will be the 9th officer and a new hire shortly there-after will be the 10th so

that our department will be fully staffed once again.

I have had conversations with several officers and dispatchers in the police department over

the past couple of days, and they have indicated to me that there will be a continuation of

the quality services that our citizens deserve. These officers have said that serving the

community is their top priority and they will honor their commitment. As with all

departments of the City of Centralia, administration included, our priority is providing

essential, quality services to our citizens. We will continue to make every effort to hold true

to our commitment.