Changes in police department, court being reflected in budget

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By David Meade

Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said the town has reorganized departments, made operational changes and implemented cost saving measures that have saved the town money and now are being reflected in the budget.

One area the town will see reduced costs is in municipal court. The town is changing court from weekly to two times a month. Durham said reduced court costs and the resulting reduction in salary for the municipal judge will result in savings for the town over the next year. Court is now being held on the second and third Tuesday of each month beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The change was made after evaluations showed that the court volume had been reduced and only “solid cases” were being presented to the judge.

The reduction in the number of cases going to court is also the result of changes made in the police department during Durham’s first year.

Durham said that a priority during his first year in office was to change the perception of the police department and the reduction in court cases reflects an ongoing effort to maintain a professional department.

One of the first things he did as mayor was hire a new police chief and give him the initial objectives for repairing the department’s budget deficit, restoring public confidence in the police department and at the same time, reducing costs and providing a quality service to the community.

Over the past three to five years, the police department has been one of the biggest budget problem areas for the town and it is now seeing the biggest return from changes. (See council budget story)

Tony Taylor was hired as the new police chief and he immediately began reorganizing the department and bringing in new command staff and officers.

In an effort to continue to improve the police department, Durham said the new budget does include funding for one new investigator and one new clerical position in the police department.

He said the town has also applied for a grant to pay for a second investigator for the department.

The budget has also been reduced by making better use of employees in several departments, according to the mayor.

“We are using people we’ve got more effectively,” he said.

The changes in court allows the court clerk to also help out in the front office. Another office position is also helping with clerical duties in the police department.

Employees in the water, sewer and street departments are being cross trained and can help out in the other areas when there is a need.

Durham said the budget has been reduced due to one person retiring. The town has also not filled the parks and recreation director position left open by the retirement of Dale Martin.

Durham said he is pleased the town is coming in under budget and that he is happy to get through the first year.

Council approved second reading on a $2,975,921 General Fund budget Monday. (Details of the budget can be found on the town website at (www.williamston.sc.us.)

Highlights of the budget according to the mayor include adding investigators to the police department, being able to provide Main Street program funding and a focus on using the hospitality tax money more effectively.

The budget includes the purchase of either a mini excavator or a Bobcat for the water/sewer department, he said.