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Money for dinner benefits community

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POSTED March 29, 2010 2:23 a.m.
LATHROP – Money that would have been used to cater an appreciation dinner for former Police Chief Dolores Delgado will now benefit an untold number of Lathrop residents who will be taking part in three community programs.

When she left her post at the Lathrop Police Services last month, the City Council unanimously voted to hold a catered dinner in her honor to the tune of $3,500. But Delgado told the council that while she felt honored by the city’s gesture and being mindful of the ongoing fiscal crisis, she said she would rather see the money used for programs that would benefit the community. Three that she mentioned are programs that have always been near and dear to her heart: the Junior Police Academy and Citizens Police Academy, and the File of Life. The police academy classes have been going on for years and are hugely popular based on the number of participants it draws each time.

However, the council last week voted to use only $2,050 of the $3,500 dinner money with the remainder going back to the city manager’s contingency fund where the allocation came from.

The $2,050 per the council’s decision is allocated in the following amounts: $500 for the Citizens Police Academy; $350 for the File of Life, and $1,000 for the Junior Police Academy.

Both police academy classes are self-supporting programs in that they get their funding from participants’ fees at an annual cost of $500 for the citizens academy and $1,000 for the junior academy. Annual cost for File of Life, which provides life-saving medical information packets and magnets or decals containing emergency contacts, is approximately $350. The council hopes to increase that funding in the coming years.

Junior Police Academy is a two-week, 40-hour-long course of study offered in the summer to Lathrop residents who are in fifth to eight grades in school. This program is a crime-prevention and educational venue offered by the Lathrop Police Services.

The Citizens Academy, on the other hand, is geared toward citizens 18 years and older. It is aimed at promoting better relationship between the police department and the community. It’s also intended to better inform residents about community policing and help foster a clearer understanding of a  police officer’s duties and how they carry out those duties. The program is a two-hours-a-week series of classes held on consecutive Wednesdays over a nine-week period. The next class is scheduled for April 28 to June 23, with the classes held from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the Lathrop Community Center.

During the discussion prior to the council vote, other community programs for possible funding were also mentioned along with the police academy classes and the File of Life such as “10 days without TV” which targets elementary school students. However, Mayor Kristy Sayles reminded everyone that the purpose of the $3,500 catered dinner was to honor the former police chief and that these were the programs that she suggested.

“Instead (of the dinner), she asked that we continue these vital programs. I still want to honor our police chief by helping more people who benefit from these programs,” Sayles said.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal, however, argued that he does “not want to personalize the issue. We offered and she declined it. We should not personalize this. I support it because it’s for our citizens. These programs are excellent programs.”

Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo agreed. “This (the catered dinner) was something that she declined. It was a good gesture on her part,” she said.

By allocating some of the money to the community programs, “it’s not money wasted. It makes everybody feel good,” she added.

The only member of the council who voted against using the money for any of the above programs was Council member Christopher Mateo. Explaining the reason behind his vote, he said that in light of the city’s ongoing fiscal crisis, the city should “save (the money) for a rainy day.” The city still has about $1 million to trim from the budget deficit. The fiscal belt tightening, so far, has resulted in reduced business hours at City Hall through weekly Friday furloughs, the laying off of nearly two-dozen workers, and 10 percent pay cuts across the board for the remaining employees.

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