Mayor Ron Casey made the announcement during the council’s Monday night regular meeting.
“I’d like to inform you that our police chief, Clay Patterson, entered his resignation today. He will be with us through [March 17] and that will be his last day. That means we’ll be seeking someone else to take his place,” Casey said.
In his resignation letter to the council, which he said was based on “many hours of thought processing,” Patterson cited the lack of any employee insurance or benefits as one reason for his leaving the position.
“I feel that with the job that I perform, this is a very important factor in job security and need for the employee[,] as well as any employee’s future and well-being,” he wrote. “Also, the city government does not seem to show much interest in the importance of public safety and how it is desperately needed for our citizens and to assist me in the performance of my duties. I am not stating this to be true, only what I have now observed over the past four years and being familiar with the operations of the city.
“With all this being said, I am informing you that I will resign from my position to continue my career in law enforcement with another employer that I feel is going to benefit my well-being[,] and my career[,] and is the best decision for me and my future. I will continue to perform my duties until March 17th, which will be my last day of employment with the city and will allow me to handle my last court session.”
Patterson also wrote he would be glad to assist the council in finding a replacement to ensure the department is “placed into good hands.”
The council then faced an audience in which every seat was taken. Three speakers came before the council to protest recent events at the city cemetery where excess dirt from a recent burial was dumped on the gravesites of Laura Hardin’s parents, headstones were damaged and equipment was driven over gravesites. Other audience members were there to support the three speakers and ask similar questions about cemetery maintenance.
Casey said the city’s maintenence personnel overseeing the cemetery had planned to move the various amounts of dirt, but the recent rain had kept them from performing any work. He also said he had spoken with the three funeral homes that had recently worked in the cemetery, but all of them had denied dumping the dirt.
“My opinion, when I looked at the tracks, it looked as if it was Barton [Funeral Home], to me,” Casey said.
Hardin said she wanted the dirt removed and the damage to her father’s headstone paid for by whoever was responsible. Charlotte Hatfield and later Joyce Silvers raised similar concerns about cemetery maintenance. Silvers specifically asked about moving pre-existing walls around one gravesite to another in the cemetery. The council gave her permission to move the walls.
Hatfield then asked about the city’s water situation and if the water was safe to drink. Casey explained how the water in the city’s distribution system had not been contaminated, that the city was using a safe well and the contaminated well was shut down.
Water Operator Billy Baker explained that the department’s chlorine system kept the water running to Kingston homes clean.
“Everything past the well house, where we disinfected the water, which — everybody has to do that. Every public entity has to disinfect the water and [the contamination] didn’t show up in any of our distribution system water,” he said.
Baker added he had taken five water samples from around the city on Feb. 5, and all five tests came back clean.
Before stepping down from the podium, Hatfield inquired about the council’s plans for the police department. She asked them not to hire any “rejects” that other police departments would not hire.
Council member Chuck Wise said the council would work to find a replacement before Patterson leaves or a temporary solution.
“But I think we’re going to have to come up with a plan pretty quick or see if we can get somebody from the sheriff’s department or state patrol to patrol our area. You see, he’s not officially leaving yet ... so we may be able to come up with a replacement or something before he leaves,” Wise said.
The council then approved a motion for Sweitzer Engineering to write an official report on the Dawson Street well contamination and send it to the state Environmental Protection Division, as required by state law.
Also approved was a motion to hire Kenneth Darby as a part-time maintenance worker at $12 per hour and 30 hours a week.
The Kingston City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for March 4 at 7 p.m. at city hall.