INDIAN TRAIL – Leaders in Indian Trail will meet next week to start discussing what it will take to come to an agreement with the Union County Sheriff’s Office for continued deputy protection of town residents.
Indian Trail’s current agreement with the sheriff’s office runs out in the summer of 2013, at which point the town must have a new agreement in place or risk losing the 21 deputies that patrol the rapidly growing town. Indian Trail currently pays roughly $1.8 million a year to the county for the sheriff’s office’s public safety efforts, without which the town would be forced to form it’s own police force. And while the town could just opt to spend its money to create a new department,
Indian Trail town manager Joe Fivas said this week that no discussions have been held along those lines as of yet.
“A police department hasn’t been discussed in any form,” Fivas said. “I think every indication is we would like to extend the agreement. We have a good partnership with” the sheriff’s office.
But that’s not to say such a discussion couldn’t come up at the town’s special hearing on the public safety agreement next week. Local towns such as Stallings and Waxhaw have their own police departments, while Indian Trail’s population is larger than both. Stallings leaders recently looked at disbanding its police force in exchange for outsourcing protection to the sheriff’s office, saying at the time doing so may be cheaper. The town stuck with its police force in part due to public outcry.
What’s most cost effective for Indian Trail wouldn’t be clear unless town leaders started crunching numbers. And, as the town’s last agreement was made five years ago, the county could ask for more cash per year in a new agreement. But the prevailing logic once discussions start could be “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“I’m very satisfied with the sheriff’s office,” said town council member Chris King. “I really think we can negotiate a deal that both parties can be happy with.”
King said he’s pleased with the current crime rate in Indian Trail, especially seeing how large the town has grown. Meanwhile, the town also recently added two new deputies thanks in part to a state grant, though the town will absorb that cost in the near future.
Now also may be a bad time for Indian Trail to start it’s own police force, owing to the start-up costs involved in purchasing vehicles and everything else that goes into such an endeavor. The tax burden could be too much for a town that recently voted to spend $3 million on area road projects and as much as $8.5 million during the next few years on two park projects. Both sets of projects likely will be paid for out of the town’s capital reserve fund, created by a 4-cent tax increase this summer.
Fivas said this week’s meeting, likely on Thursday, Dec. 20, will just be a preliminary discussion so town council members can be reminded of what’s in the current agreement and start thinking about what else the town may need from the sheriff’s office. But King said, as things move forward with negotiations, the town will need input from area residents on the public safety issue.
“I want (citizens) to be a part of this process,” King said. “I want this to be as transparent as possible. It’s very important to get that information so the council can talk about it. The first step of that is next week’s meeting.”