By David Meade
During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved second reading on a $2,975,921 General Fund budget (See budget story), learned the police department was under budget, approved funding for Main Street projects and passed a new drug ordinance.
Police Dept. report
Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor reported the police department is implementing a new ordinance that will assist the police department, landlords and rental property owners in dealing with drug related activities.
Taylor reported the Foster Care Appreciation event “went very well” with more than 100 people attending. He said the department is planning a book bag giveway.
“Our department and staff should be commended for a job well done,” Taylor said. “These programs are part of the vision set forth by the mayor in an attempt to makeWilliamston a safe place.”
According to the Chief, the department has expanded resources with the addition of a school resource officer, now having three, advanced constables, a reserve program and increased capacity to investigate with the addition of another investigator.
Leading into a budget report, Taylor said when he was brought into the position of Police Chief, there were three initial objectives the mayor wanted including repairing an ongoing budget deficit in the department, restoring public confidence in the police department and reducing cost and providing a quality service to the community.
Police Budget Report
Captain Kevin Marsee said during fiscal years 2011-13, the department had budget deficits of over $76,826, $193,000 and 73,133. The department was budgeted at aproximately $1.1 million during each of those years.
According to Marsee, the department has been able to remain under budget for the first time in several years due to changes in holiday and overtime pay.
Marsee said paid holidays were converted to personal time off and overtimes converted to compensation time. The resulting cost savings amounted to $61,500.
The Department also saw savings with Anderson School District One picking up the tab for three resource officers, reimbursing the town $164,000.
Two of the three resource officers also provide 840 man hours over the summer months amounting to $12,180 in cost savings for the department.
The department purchased four used vehicles during 2013-14 at a cost of $35,000 which are now paid for. Marsee said one new police vehicle purchased in 2011 cost the town $35,000 and two new vehicles were purchased in 2012 at $61,000.
The Police Department operated under a total of $875,716 for 2014. Captain Marsee said the department is currently $190,987 under budget as of April 30 and anticipates being well under budget at the end of the budget year ending in June.
Cost savings by the department to the Town of Williamston is $258,000 to $289,000, he said.
Marsee said that providing quality services for the town is dependent on the qualifications of the law enforcement officer.
“They are the face of the town and ambassadors to the community,” he said.
The key to the success of our agency is the ability to attract, recruit and retain certified trainees and experienced law enforcement officers.
Main Street report
Main Street Williamston Director Caroline Alex reported 32 T-shirts were sold at the Party in the Park event. The shirts are being sold as a fundraiser for the new program and feature a new Historic Williamston logo. They are available for $10 at the Williamston Municipal Center and will be available at other events.
Alex said she attended 15 sessions during five days at a Main Street national training session held in Detroit. She also reported the Main Street program logged 40 volunteer hours during May.
Main Street Funding
Council unanimously approved a funding request of $4,460 for the Main St. Williamston program.
Chairman Lee Cole requested the funding as seed money for budgeted projects the organization is planning.
“We are ready to move and need seed montey to get started,” Cole told Council.
The funding will be used for advertising, brochures, signs, and gateway beautification. Cole asked for the funding to come from the hospitality tax.
“The main job of the Main Street program is to get people into town,” he said.
Mayor Mack Durham said community engagement does enrich the community and “local government cannot provide what we leverage from our community.”
He said he appreciated the work Main Street Director Caroline Alex does and all of the volunteer hours.
“We need to seed these effots and move them forward,” the mayor said.
Councilman Rockey Burgess, who serves on the Main Street design committee said the requests “were reasonble and don’t cost a whole lot.”
“We need to plant the seed and people and business will start getting involved. Right now Main Street does not have that in their budget.”
New drug ordinance
Council approved an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of locations for controlled substance operations.
The ordinance states that it is unlawful for any person, persons, business entity or entities to knowingly open or maintain any place in the city for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance as defined under state law.
It also states that it is unlawfyl to manage or control any building, room or enclosure, either as an owner, lessee, agen, employee, or mortgagee and knowingly and intentionally rent, lease, or make available for use with or without compensation, the buidling room or enclosure for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing distributing or using a controlled substance.
The charge is a misdemeanor for which the city judge shall determine the penalty.
Council went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue. According to the Mayor, no business was conducted during the behind closed door session.
Councilman Tony Hagood reported the Dr. Martin Luther King street designation has passed both the House and Senate in Columbia and House Rep. Anne Thayer is working to get it to the next phase, which is having the SCDOT signs made and then scheduling a ceremony for unveiling.
Councilman David Harvell reported there is interest in forming a group of volunteer Police Explorers in Williamston.
During comments, GWBA President Chris Trotter thanked Town Council for their support of the Party in the Park event and park improvements.