Garden City talks law enforcement, appoints new fire chief

Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry addresses the Garden City Town Council before its meeting this week. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

GARDEN CITY, Ala. – Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry and Terry Sanders of the Alabama League of Municipalities Loss Control Division spoke with the Garden City Town Council prior to this week’s meeting about the Town hiring a deputy or establishing its own police department.  At Garden City’s previous council meeting, Councilman Scott Arnold asked the council to continue to save up for a police department or hiring a deputy from the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office to be assigned to the town.

Gentry shared with the council the costs of establishing a deputy in the town, saying, “Each township’s a little different with their deputies and their responsibilities. They work with the mayor and their towns. They’re assigned to help you.”

Sanders talked to the council about establishing a police department. Sanders shared the benefits of a police department, saying the department would require a police chief.  

Paul Glenon, whose son crashed and did damage to a fire hydrant on U.S. Highway 31 addressed the council to begin the meeting. Glenon said he received an invoice for an estimate of $3,200.

Glenon offered to pay $2,000, saying, “My son is 16. He’s been driving for a month by himself; he ran off the road, hit your fire hydrant. I want to make you guys whole and I think $2,000 makes you guys whole.”

Mayor Tim Eskew told Glenon the council would have to discuss it, along with a separate personnel issue, in executive session.

When the council came out of executive session, Arnold made a motion to accept an agreed upon amount, which passed.

Councilman Doug Pender then recommended the council appoint Garden City Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief James Johnson as fire chief, which received a second motion and passed. Johnson has been serving as chief since March, when former chief Stephen Harvey Ohls was arrested and charged with sexual abuse.

Eskew smiled, “Congratulations.”

Toward the end of the meeting, the council talked about what happened in the work session with Gentry and Sanders. Councilman Butch Bradford said he was leaning more toward a town deputy, since he feels Garden City wouldn’t be able to afford a police department. The other council members agreed. The council decided to learn more specifics about the deputy township contract.

The Garden City Town Council meets on the third Monday of each month. The next scheduled meeting will be June 17 at 6 p.m.

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Maggie Darnell