Tonight, the Walnut Cove town commissioners will discuss a proposed law enforcement services contract.
The contract, if approved, would shut down the police department and transfer policing obligations to the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office. The item is listed on the agenda as a discussion item. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7 at the Walnut Cove Senior Center.
A police contract was drafted by the town’s attorney and sent to the county. County Manager Rick Morris said Tuesday morning that he had taken a look at the draft in consultation with the sheriff and proposed a couple of changes. Morris said if approved by the town, the contract would then have to go back to the county for consideration and any further revisions.
According to the original draft sent to the county, the town would pay the county $140,000 for fiscal year 2013-14 to provide law enforcement services in Walnut Cove. The amount would be paid in two $70,000 installments. In following years, the town’s annual payment would increase “by an amount equal to the previous year’s Consumer Price Index.”
The draft also proposes that the town will provide office space for use by the sheriff’s deputies in town and turn over two patrol cars, four handguns, four tasers and four protective vests to the Sheriff’s Office.
In return, the county would agree to have at least one officer present and providing services within the town limits at all times. Sheriff Mike Marshall previously stated that this would require hiring four new officers to each take a different shift. The Sheriff’s Office would also provide services to ensure safety at special events such as the annual Christmas parade or Halloween celebration.
Town Manager Byron Ellis said Tuesday afternoon that the proposed changes by the county were minor and had been forwarded to the town attorney for review.
At last month’s meeting, the town board authorized the town manager to contact the county to investigate the possibility of disbanding the Walnut Cove Police Department and contracting with the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office to provide the town’s law enforcement services. The reason given was the need to reduce town expenditures. Commissioner Kim Lewis said this was being initiated by the town and not the Sheriff’s Office.
At a budget workshop last month, Police Chief Chad Williams proposed a budget with a bottom line of about $289,000, lower than the current police department budget exceeding $350,000. This budget would cut two officers and two cars and do away with officer cell phones and wireless cards. The only officers allowed to take home their cars would be the chief and sergeant, since they are on call, and officers on call who live within 15 minutes of the town.