Public safety remains focal point of discussion
Public safety was once again the focus as Indian Trail voted to adopt a budget. Council members increased the public safety budget by more than 7 percent, however requests to add additional officers were rejected.
Council member John Hullinger originally made the motion to add two officers, pointing out the town hadn’t increased its number of contract deputies in two years, despite the fact the town’s population has climbed to more than 33,000.
“I think it’s just a band-aid approach to (increase the budget by 7 percent),” Hullinger said, adding that some towns have 1 officer for every 1,000 residents. Indian Trail, he said, currently has 18 deputies to cover more than 33,000 people.
Town manager Joe Fivas explained he hadn’t recommended adding any deputies because the county didn’t send the contract deputy rate until after the budget had been completed. Each year, the county can change what it costs for towns to contract a deputy, with municipalities paying between 80 to 90 percent, while Union County covers the final 10 to 20 percent of the fee.
“We were concerned we would get a 10 to 20 percent increase,” Fivas said, adding that he didn’t believe a patrol deputy would solve the problems. “I think there’s traffic issues in neighborhoods that are more difficult to resolve than putting people on the street,” Fivas said. He highlighted the concerns in Callonwood subdivision with cut through traffic and other issues that he wasn’t sure deputies would prevent.
The council voted down the proposal 4 to 1. As a compromise, Councilman Gary D’Onofrio suggested adding one deputy, but the rest of the council questioned why they needed to pay more when residents also contributed their tax dollars.
“As we grow, we’re actually paying for (law enforcement) anyway, with the additional dollars our residents put in,” Council member Darlene Luther said. “How much are we subsidizing the rest of the county?”
Luther said she would support paying for an additional contract deputy, if the sheriff’s office would add one as well, since Indian Trail’s population has climbed.
“Your county tax dollars pay for different divisions,” Lt. Chase Coble, who is in charge of the Indian Trail contract deputies, told the council. He explained those funds covered crime scene officers, a fingerprint system, the jail, the courthouse and a new K-9 position the county had provided to Indian Trail at no cost to the town.
“We’re running this as efficiently as we can,” Coble said. “You’re paying for front line services, (but) there is more to (public safety) than front line services.”
The council voted down the proposal to add one officer by a 3 to 2 decision. Council members John Hullinger and Gary D’Onofrio were opposed.
In previous discussions, the council had already agreed not to include a tax increase in the budget. The budget did include $2.55 million in capital improvements for the town, with beautification projects, street and sidewalk improvements mentioned.