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Huntsville’s proposed 2022 budget includes number of personnel increases

Police personnel increases include co-responders to assist in mental health crises
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:32 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Huntsville City Council is set to vote on the 2022 budget on Thursday.

The Council wants to increase the budget by $3 million more than last year. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the driving force is growth as the city is getting bigger, both in size and population.

According to Mayor Battle, the city’s growth resulted in the need to hire more people. In the 2022 budget, four departments are requesting double-digit personnel increases. The 2021 budget only called for personnel increases that large in one department.

The four departments are:

Huntsville Police

Huntsville Fire

Huntsville Parks and Recreation

Huntsville Landscape Management

“We’ve accumulated more land just through the annexation program,” said Mayor Battle. “That’s when someone comes in and they want to be in the city of Huntsville. They have to be contiguous to the city of Huntsville and they’ll make a petition to be a part of the city. We’ve had a lot of lands added even south of the river to the west and to the north and east and it’s a great attribute to the city because it gives us great growth corridors for the future.”

When asked if the city created any new positions or budget changes in response to COVID, Mayor Battle said no.

More than two dozen of the proposed additions are in the police department, but not all of them will be police officers.

Mayor Battle said the city is budgeting for some co-responders. This is a program that started just a couple of months ago. Co-responders go out into the field with police officers.

“It is very good to have the tools that can actually solve a problem out there. And this is what we’ve done this time is be able to put together the right people in the right place who can solve problems,” said Battle.

Captain Jon Ware says co-responders have extensive training in mental health response, like a graduate degree or years of experience. These co-responders help with calls from people experiencing mental health crises. Captain Ware said he’s already seen success in this program.

The mayor said he doesn’t know how many of the 29 new positions will be co-responders.

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