New leadership for Pulaski PD
Chief Jill Neice accepts a resolution of recognition for her 25 years of service to the Pulaski Police Department. (William Paine/Patriot Publishing)
Incoming Police Chief Sam Shumate is introduced during council meeting. (William Paine/Patriot Publishing)
By WILLIAM PAINE
The Town Council of Pulaski on Tuesday began their final meeting of 2023 with a resolution honoring Pulaski Police Chief Jill D. Neice, who will retire at the end of January 2024.
Neice was set to retire at the end of this year, but has agreed to stay on an extra month to aid in the transition when Samuel “Sam” Shumate takes over.
Neice joined the Pulaski Police Department in August of 1998 and has served in the capacity of Sergeant, Lieutenant and Detective before becoming Police Chief. Niece is the first female Chief of Police to lead the town’s police department, as well as being the first female to graduate from the New River Criminal Justice Training Academy.
The resolution, which was read by Mayor Shannon Collins, states that Neice received two Distinguished Service Awards, the Officer of the Year Award and “countless commendations” during her tenure.
Mayor Collins then thanked Neice for her service on behalf of the town and expressed his regret that he did not have a can of Mountain Dew to offer the departing Chief.
“She’d come by the station most every day and buy a can of Mountain Dew,” said Collins.
“Yes,” Neice replied with a grin. “Those days are over.”
Councilman Jamie Ratcliff noted that the police culture “runs deep” in Neice’s family and then said this:
“You were a great Chief. Mr. Shumate is taking over a great department. You’ve brought it to the top and I want you to enjoy your retirement.”
Town Manager Darlene Burcham then formally introduced Shumate, who will start work as Police Chief on Jan. 1, 2024.
“He comes to us from Radford University Police Department, where he has served for over 24 years, including his most recent role as Assistant Police Chief for the past five years,” said Burcham. “He’s also been a Lieutenant of Criminal Investigation, Sergeant of Criminal Investigations, a Patrol Sergeant and a police officer. In addition to that he is a veteran of the United States Air Force, the Army National Guard and the United States Navy Reserve, where he spent time as a Naval Criminal Investigator.”
Burcham went on to list Shumate’s education which includes a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management and Leadership and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. Shumate is a graduate of the Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command and of the New River Criminal Justice Academy.
Burcham went on to say that the panel she put together, which included Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith, voted unanimously to hire Shumate.
A presentation was then made by Robert Lauterberg, a representative for the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties, (VML VACO).
“They are the entity with which we have very recently deposited a lot of our idle cash, which has proven very beneficial to us with the interest rate that is offered by his group,” said Burcham.
Lauterberg then launched into a lengthy financial presentation aimed at helping the town council and the administration in making long range plans for future projects, including needed improvements in the water and sewer infrastructure.
Lauterberg offered a financial blueprint for town leaders to follow in the next several years, which includes sequestering monies specifically denoted for future Capital Fund needs.
Next, Emily Viers of the accounting firm Robinson, Farmer & Cox presented the results of her company’s audit of the Town of Pulaski’s finances.
Viers gave a detailed account of the finances of the Town, which were favorable in general, as both she and Lauterberg declared the Town of Pulaski to be in good financial condition.
Next, Jackie Morris, the Finance Director of the Town of Pulaski, gave an update on the projects that were completed with money from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), the economic stimulus bill that went into effect during the COVID outbreak.
The Town of Pulaski received $9,040,920 of these funds in two instalments. The first in June 2021 and the second in July of 2022.
Of the $9,040,920 dollars received, the Town of Pulaski has expended $7,057,581 on numerous projects.
Morris then listed the projects that had been completed using ARPA funds in the last 2 ½ years, many of which involved recreational activities.
The first project to be completed was the Skate Park and Basketball Court on 1st Street, which also included landscaping and signage. The bicycle park off Route 99 was also constructed with ARPA funds.
In addition, ARPA funds paid for the pickleball and basketball courts at the intersection of 6th Street and Washington Avenue, though the basketball courts are still a work in progress.
The funds also purchased new playground equipment, which was installed at Heritage Park, Kiwanis Park, Sixth Street, Valley Street, and Gatewood Park. Benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles were also added to these sites. A splash park at Cool Springs is also in the works.
The police department bought a police dog named Juno with the funds, which also provided the training and equipment required for a K-9 unit.
The funds also purchased UTV’s for both the town’s police and fire departments.
The charging station for electric vehicles located near the town hall was purchased with ARPA funds.
These monies were also spent on signage, including the welcome signs at the entrances to town and on the interstate, as well as a new Police Department sign that is affixed next to the entrance to town hall.
Various safety devises were purchased for town employees including respirator masks, gas detection monitors, fire extinguishers, etc. Uniforms were also purchased with these funds.
ARPA funds were also expended on the town’s infrastructure, especially in regard to the water system. Five of the towns water tanks were thoroughly cleaned, repaired and painted with these funds. The recently completed water line replacement project on West Main Street was also done using ARPA funds.
The water filtration plant also benefitted from these federal funds as a new roof was installed and the “Pulsator and Baffle” system was replaced for the first time in 34 years. Additionally, the filtration plant received several more much needed equipment upgrades.
Funds were also used to repair the pump stations at 4A on Dora Highway and 4B near James Hardie and Critzer Elemetary, but Morris emphasized that these projects are ongoing.
Pulaski Public Works received some heavy equipment with these funds and the town paved several streets with this money … and even bought new Christmas decorations!
Out of the original $9,040,920, there is $1,983,339 of ARPA money that is as yet unspent, and these funds must be fully obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and must be fully expended by Dec. 31, 2026.
According to Morris, all but a half-million dollars of these remaining ARPA funds have already been designated for various town projects.
In other developments, council voted to extend Burcham’s contract, which was to end on Jan. 31, 2024 to February 29, 2024, even as new Town Manager Todd Day will begin his tenure on Feb. 1.
As is the case with the police chief, Burcham will remain for an extra month to aid in the transition process for the new Town Manager.
At the end of the meeting, Burcham announced that each full-time employee of the Town of Pulaski will receive a $1,000 bonus at the first of the year. Part time employees will also receive a bonus of a lesser amount.
The Pulaski Town Council also voted to give town employees a full day off on Friday Dec. 22 and Tuesday Dec. 26, 2023.
The next Town Council meeting will take place on January 16, 2024.