By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Liberal’s crime rate has gone down — again. During Tuesday evening’s city commission meeting, Liberal Police Chief Al Sill informed the commission of the drop. With new statistics from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 2009 proved to be another good year for the City of Liberal. During a 20-minute executive session, due to a glowing evaluation of his job performance, City Manager Mark Hall received a 6 percent raise of his current salary.
“I try to keep you guys informed of all the progress we make throughout the community in regards to our crime statistics,” Sill said. “The official crime statistics are obviously what is published through the KBI. Sadly, though, they are always a year behind what the current statistics are. So, the 2009 statistics have just been published as of last week, so I wanted to update everybody as to what is being reported.
“We did a comparison with cities that are near the same population as Liberal,” he explained. “The statistics showed rated our crime index in 2009 at 33.6. If you will remember from previous discussions, our statistics back in 2006 was 78.4 and they have been able to gradually reduce that over the years. Now, in 2008 our crime index was at 35. So, we have managed to reduce that slightly even beyond that. We have been able to reduce our overall crime rate by 42 percent since we hit the peak in 2006.
“The state statistics came in and we were slightly below those as well,” he added. “All in all, I am pretty pleased with what we have been able to accomplish. Ideally, we would like to get it down as low as possible, but realistically, we will never get down to zero. Our goal is to hopefully not spike back up what we were years ago and keep control of what we have got today.”
Sill explained the crime index is figured by a rate per 1,000 of a city’s population. He was glad to report that in the Southwest Kansas region, Liberal had the lowest crime index of Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City. Garden City received a crime index rating of 39 and Dodge City was rated at 40.9. The State of Kansas, as a whole, was rated at 35.6 — just above Liberal’s rating.
Commissioners thanked Sill for his work throughout the last several years.
“I would also like to thank the police department for all the work they do,” Mayor Tim Long added.
Following an executive session, the commission unanimously approved a 6 percent raise in City Manager Mark Hall’s salary. Commissioner Dave Harrison made the motion to approve the raise due to Hall’s evaluation findings. Commissioner Larry Koochel gave the motion a second.
Finance Director Chris Ford said he was unsure as to the exact dollar amount of Hall’s salary at this time.
“I won’t know the exact salary until the numbers are finalized,” Ford said.
The raise equated to a $6,600 annual increase, which Commissioner Larry Koochel said was a small price to pay for consistency and effectiveness.
“If you have to go out and find a new city manager, it will cost you a ton of money,” Koochel said. “It owuld take us years to get back to the level where we are right now.”
Mayor Tim Long said Hall received an exemplary evaluation, which is the reason for his raise in salary. Long said Hall’s raise will most likely take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.
“He has done a great job,” Long said. “Everybody was very pleased with the job he is doing. We have a great city manager that does a great job. He makes us all look good. He loves this city and just wants to make Liberal a better place.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — For more on Hall, see Thursday’s Leader.