NPD body camera plan put on hold
A program that would outfit city police with body cameras is on hold for now, according to Nogales Police Chief Roy Bermudez.
Since the costs weren’t part of the department’s budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, Bermudez told the NI on Wednesday, he’s planning to wait until he can be sure that the plan is financially “viable.”
Earlier this year, NPD had indicated it hoped to implement the body cameras by this fall.
The department has been working since last year on a plan to get officers wearing cameras, which Bermudez said can help create community trust with police officers and could protect the department if someone brought a lawsuit related to officer conduct.
In February, the city council approved a Department of Justice grant that would help the city pay for the cameras.
At that time, NPD Lieutenant Robert Thompson said that he expected to select a vendor in six months and implement the cameras one or two months afterward.
But the Justice Department grant was for $82,500, and Bermudez said the total cost of a five-year body camera program would be approximately $422,000.
Earlier this year, Bermudez said that the department would apply for “sustainability grants” to further cut down the city’s investment in the project.
On Wednesday, he said that NPD hadn’t applied for any additional grants, but was still looking into the possibility.
Bermudez said he expects to revisit the plan during the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget process.
Trolley now available for community use
The mayor and council approved a use policy for community groups that want to use a historic city trolley for events.
According to an order passed by the council, groups must apply for a permit two weeks in advance, any events must be “open to the community at large,” and the organizers must “not directly profit from the use or operation of the trolley.”
Mayor Arturo Garino said that “everybody can use it,” though he added that permits would be approved at the city manager’s discretion.
But the one community member who has used the trolley in the past said she’s no longer interested.
The city-owned trolley, which dates to 1982, had fallen into disrepair until a project to restore it got underway last year.
Nogales resident Linda Rushton led the restoration effort, collecting donations from local businesses and hiring a local artist to paint murals on the sides of the vehicle.
She subsequently led at least one group on a trolley tour that included stops at local sites, including the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
But Rushton and the city council got into a tussle at a July council meeting, after Rushton asked that the city pay for a trolley driver.
At the July meeting, council members said that there wasn’t an official policy for private groups to use the trolley and suggested that Rushton was using the trolley to promote her tour business, Ambos Tours.
Rushton said that she hadn’t charged a fee for the trolley tours and had personally contributed money to the restoration. She added that one tour had collected about $350 in rider donations, which were given to the city.
Speaking on Thursday, Rushton said: “I did my best and they (the city council) didn’t appreciate it.”
“I don’t (care) about that trolley anymore,” she added, using a more colorful turn of phrase.
City employees to get $500 bonus
The city is set to distribute $500 bonuses to all employees this holiday season.
That will make 2019 the third straight year that employees have gotten a $500 bonus around the holidays.
“The City of Nogales desires to recognize the hard work and dedication each employee provides to the organization and community,” city staff wrote in an order passed at Wednesday’s council meeting.
The council’s move comes two months after Linda Hatfield, the local president of a union representing city workers, called on council members to make $500 payments to city employees.
But Mayor Arturo Garino insisted that the payout has nothing to do with Hatfield’s comments.
“We usually give it out right before the holidays,” he said of the bonus.
At a September meeting, Hatfield accused city officials of “union-busting” and suggested that some city employees had gotten raises that weren’t entirely appropriate.
“It was mentioned that certain people had received raises that mayor and council hadn’t really approved and you were asking for that to be checked out,” she told the council on Sept. 10. “I would just ask that in that light, maybe if you could reconsider the $500 for all the employees… I think with everything going on and the fact that some people did receive raises, that that would be appropriate.”
The “reconsideration” was a reference to a $1,000 bonus that was originally planned for employees in 2018, but later cut to a $500 payment.
When the council halved that bonus in November 2018, council members said they would consider paying out another $500 in 2019 after reviewing sales tax revenues from the holiday shopping season.
But at a June 2019 meeting, council members appeared to agree that the additional $500 wouldn’t be paid out after all.
According to city documents, the payment approved at Wednesday’s meeting will cost the city up to $178,000.