GARLAND — A patrol car for a new police department has arrived, but commissioners are still searching for someone to drive it.
During a special Tuesday meeting, the Garland Board of Commissioners took another step toward building the force by interviewing a police chief candidate. It took place during a closed session.
“We’re still interviewing and trying to make some decisions,” Mayor Winifred Murphy said.
Several officers applied for the job, but the search has been narrowed down to two people. Murphy hopes a decision will be made by the regular meeting in August.
The process began when town leaders terminated a contract with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement protection, which would have cost Garland $113,000. A majority of the commissioners said that amount was too high, especially when it included an increase of $25,000.
Garland ran its own police department eight years ago, but it came to an end due to the down economy. Now, Commissioner Ralph Smith and his colleagues have to go through the start-up process again. After the chief is hired, he can’t start until everything is ready. Some of that includes the certification process with law officials.
“It depends how quick the FBI and the state works on it,” Smith said about the legal procedures. “Once we hire somebody, that’s going to determine how long it’s going to take.”
Town officials advertised for the position through local media and on their Facebook page.
“We’re looking for somebody that’s chief material who’s had some good working experience and who knows how to handle paperwork and set up the work ethics,” Smith said.
Commissioners said they would like to have someone who lives nearby. So far, that’s not the case in the search.
“Unfortunately, we have not had any local applicants put in applications,” Smith said in regards of someone with enough experience.
Like others, Smith hopes the process can move along quickly. Having a patrol car was one of several steps. In early July, commissioners approved more than $10,000 for a 2010 Dodge Charger. It was recently delivered from Copcarsonline, a company based out of Largo, Fla.
“We got the car and we’re going to try to get it completely ready,” Smith said about adding decals and other equipment such as computers.
During the Tuesday meeting, commissioners approved $3,500 for two radios. They also went over possible locations for the new department, which may include the prior sheriff’s annex or town hall. Smith suggested to use the annex space.
Although Garland is working to establish a police force because of a contract disagreement with the sheriff’s department, Smith still applauded the work of deputies in the area.
“Sheriff Thornton and the county really looked after us since we didn’t renew the contract,” Smith said. “They’ve been a great asset to the town of Garland.”
Prior to the decision, several residents voiced their concerns about an eight-year relationship coming to an end on July 1. Some of the main concerns involved safety and costs.
“I see them in town a lot and there’s been no problems that I heard of,” Smith said. “They’re still doing a great job for the town of Garland.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.