Public safety is Columbia residents' top concern 5 years in a row

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COLUMBIA - For the fifth year in a row, public safety tops the list of Columbia residents' concerns, according to Interim City Manager John Glascock.

In his State of the City 2019 address, Glascock talked about community responses on the annual citizen survey.

"The citizen survey helps us see what were doing well and what we need to improve on," Glascock said. 

Speaking about the place of public safety at the top of the concerns list again, Glascock said "it's a new era at the Columbia Police Department."

Since the last State of the City address, Chief Ken Burton resigned, and Geoff Jones stepped in as the interim chief. Jones has worked to continue an emphasis on community-oriented policing.

"Interim Chief Jones and I agree that community policing is just good policing," Glascock said.

Glascock said he believes he's seen an improvement in community policing with Jones, and overall an improvement in the community.

"I know he understands the importance of open and honest transparent communication with both his officers and the community," Glascock said.

Glascock emphazised that in order to improve city operations, they must start with the core. The city employee pay point, when compared to market data, is below the market compensation average.

"Employee turnover has been increasing in the past couple years," Glascock said. "Our team members who have dedicated themselves to public service are overworked, underpaid and often covering more than one job."

Glascock said they will have action plans at the June 10 Council Budget Work Session to address pay equity. 

"Working together we can find community acceptable solutions to the challenges we face as a city and a community," said Glascock. "We welcome new and fresh ideas."

Mayor Brian Treece was at the address. He said he wanted "to make sure that [Glascock] knew he had the full support of the mayor and city council as he helps us identify and advance our priorities for the coming budget."

Treece also said the importance of tax payers getting their money's worth and getting the best city employees is the most important going forward. 

The data the city received from public surveys says 79% of respondents were satisfied with the quality of life in Columbia.