After pleading for some reprieve to an impending $25,000 hike for its law enforcement coverage, Garland officials will be forced to find that extra amount in its upcoming budget if they want to keep deputies in town.
Continuing from the Sampson Board of Commissioners’ May 2 meeting, a special meeting Monday again addressed Sampson County Sheriff’s contracts for Roseboro and Garland — representatives of the latter implored the county to reconsider, citing the poverty level and limited revenues compared to other municipalities that boast parks, schools and businesses.
Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy again appealed to commissioners, but was ultimately met with a 3-2 split vote in favor of approving the interlocal agreements as proposed.
For Roseboro, the new proposed cost for its two full-time deputies, a master deputy and one sergeant is $240,533, up from the current $237,420 — an increase of $3,113. In Garland, the new proposed cost for its two full-time deputies is $112,799, up from the current cost of $87,144 — an increase of $25,655, or nearly 30 percent. The $112,000 cost would make up 24 percent of Garland’s General Fund alone.
Those new agreements will go into effect July 1.
“This looks like our pay study was passed on to them,” said Commissioner Albert Kirby leading off discussion prior to the vote.
He pointed to the “more burdensome” impact of Garland’s $25,000 hike as opposed to the $3,000 bump for Roseboro.
“It seems unfair to the citizens of Garland. If this increase happens, the mayor of Garland is going to have to pass this on to residents,” Kirby said. “I’m not saying I would be against having some type of increase, but maybe not as big of an increase. They don’t have the ability to raise funds. It’s a different climate than in Roseboro or Clinton.”
Commissioner Clark Wooten said having a police force or a constant presence in town means more money. It is voluntary to enter into those interlocal agreements, he said, whereas Garland residents could utilize the 911 center and “it wouldn’t cost them another dime.”
“It seems unfair to me to take one entity and measure them with a different stick,” Wooten remarked of the Roseboro and Garland comparison. “(Garland officials) said it would be more expensive to have a police department but that they wanted a police presence.”
Commissioner Sue Lee agreed that municipalities should not be treated differently.
“They weren’t expecting to be jacked up by 30 percent,” Kirby replied. “They are being treated differently. Garland’s (increase) is higher than Roseboro.”
The cost of the contracts has not changed since they were signed over seven years ago, a move made when the towns’ police departments were dissolved within months of each other amid a down economy that did not allow towns to fiscally sustain them. Kirby reiterated the trickle-down nature of what the county was proposing for its own towns to pay for a $3.7 million pay plan.
“We made the decision to raise pay for our employees,” he remarked. “The amount of the pay study, that’s exactly what it covers: the salary bump for those deputies. We need to man up, grab the bull by the horns and maybe we’ll have to raise taxes by 1 or 2 cents to cover that amount.”
He likened the proposed situation to what from Raleigh or D.C. does to Sampson County. Now Sampson was doing the same thing.
“This is not an unfunded mandate,” Wooten answered. “They don’t have to do this. They can have what I have free of charge.”
Attorney Joel Starling said the county would not be “off the hook” for providing law enforcement services without an interlocal agreement, which he said was “above and beyond.” County manager Ed Causey said he was sympathetic to the needs of the towns, but budget constraints and cost of services, including the added expense of the pay plan, drove the proposal.
“These contracts have been outstanding for the past seven or eight years. We saw it last year but it was too late,” Causey said of the need to raise the cost. “I do not believe I’m in a position to come in and propose something different than what the cost is. We are making a diligent effort to be the same across the board.”
Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy said the town was not notified until late March that the contracts would be increasing.
“We are not asking for preferential treatment, but Garland is different. It’s no fault of ours or yours, but schools and businesses aren’t there,” said Murphy, who was joined at the meeting by town commissioners Haywood Johnson and Ralph Smith. “We want a safe place for Garland.”
In an answer to Wooten, Murphy said having no police presence in an incorporated town such as Garland is different than not having that presence in an outlying area.
“We could just call 911, but we have no police protection,” the mayor pointed out. “We are just trying to do things for our citizens and our businesses.”
Lee made a motion to approve the contracts as is, seconded by Wooten. Lockamy concurred, while Kirby and Commissioner Harry Parker dissented.
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