Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi recommended and the council approved Travis Crouch as the new chief. The council approved the mayor’s recommendation with a vote of 4 to 1 with Councilman Ron Bias the lone dissenting vote.
Crouch, who is a lieutenant with department and has been on the city’s police force for 22 years, officially began as police chief today. He takes over from Assistant Chief Glenn Blanco who has led the department since September after former Chief Marc Folse retired. Folse had been chief since 2009.
“We’ve exhausted everybody,” Grizzaffi said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “Six qualified candidates all deserve to be the chief. The problem is you can only name one.”
Crouch, 45, said he is planning to make some immediate, noticeable changes as well as some more gradual changes within the department, but said he did not want to say yet what they would be because he has yet to speak with all the personnel within the department. During his time with the department, he has served on the street crime unit, the narcotics division, road patrol and for the past five or six years, has headed up the narcotics division, he said.
“A new administration brings new, fresh ideas. I have a bunch of fresh ideas. There’s going to be a lot of changes that are going to happen real quick and real slow,” Crouch said.
He said he plans to meet with each city councilman and people in the community to find out what problems exist and to find solutions to them.
“Without the community, we have nothing. This isn’t about me. It’s about us,” Crouch said.
Crouch wants to move forward and worry about “what happens today and tomorrow,” he said. Becoming chief will not change the fact that he is a police officer, he said. “As a police officer, you never forget where you came from,” Crouch said. “I have no problem with helping with a wreck. Just because it says chief, you have to be there for your people. And when you’re there for your people, you lead from the front. Then you gain more respect from them and they’ll follow you anywhere.”
The council also approved a bid to purchase a 138 kV circuit breaker for $49,903 from ABB Inc. to be placed in front of the new transformer at the Joseph Cefalu Steam Plant. The city has already ordered the breaker, but it still may not be here in time for when the new transformer is scheduled to come in on May 9, said city utilities director Bill Cefalu.
The city decided to install the breaker in front of the new transformer in response to the June 2012 transformer explosion to give the transformer more protection and help lessen the damage should another failure occur, said former Mayor Tim Matte at the November city council meeting. The council passed a 2.25 mil power bill surcharge in December to pay for the installation of the new transformer and for the relocation of the transformer currently in use.
The installation of the transformer is expected to take two to three weeks, Cefalu said, so he is hoping they may still be in the process of installing the transformer when the breaker comes in.
The utilities department is currently running cables to install the transformer when it arrives, Cefalu said. The city received bids Tuesday for the apparatus to connect the transformer and breaker together, which will take 14 to 16 weeks to arrive, he said.
“Worst case scenario, we’ll install the transformer, hook it up, just like the existing transformer and just have to come back and install the breaker when all the parts and pieces are there,” Cefalu said.
Grizzaffi also gave an update on the city’s garbage truck shortage. The city is currently picking up garbage with one fully functioning truck and one that is “limping,” Grizzaffi said. Therefore, the sanitation department has been picking up trash seven days a week, he said.
He and city administrators are still looking at multiple options including leasing, buying or renting, he said. “We’ve also got some quotes to privatize residential pickup, and I’m sure the community’s not going to like that price,” Grizzaffi said.
Grizzaffi and Mayor Pro-tem Louis Tamporello encouraged residents to leave their garbage cans out even if garbage is not picked up on the regularly scheduled day.
“If you put your can out on a Monday morning, and they don’t happen to get to it, just leave it. They will get to it. I don’t think we’ll be writing any tickets or anything until we get this garbage situation fixed up,” Tamporello said.
In other business, the council:
—Approved a resolution to declare surplus property.
—Authorized Grizzaffi to sign a cooperative agreement with police officer John Schaff who has agreed to care for retired drug dog, Betsey.
—Authorized $10,000 in city funds to be given to the St. Mary Council on Aging to help pay for its Home Delivered Meals program for homebound senior citizens.
—Approved a street solicitation permit for the Boot Drive to raise money to benefit fallen Chitimacha Police Sgt. Rick Riggenbach’s family.
—Approved the finance committee’s recommendations to approve the purchase of two new washers and dryers at Lake End Park.
—Approved the planning and zoning committee’s recommendations to re-subdivide 1114 and 1116 Second Street and to re-subdivide 2107 Sixth Street, 633 Louisa Street and 720 Louisa Street.