Pembroke City Council met before a full house Monday night at City Hall where concerned residents began expressing opinion about the possible loss of the Pembroke Police Department.
After the first public comment by Stephanie Morrison was heard, people were deferred instead to a public hearing regarding the city’s budget, scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m., where concern could be heard and questions answered.
Morrison said her comments were not meant to demean any employees of the city, but she was there to express concerns over the possible consolidation of the city police department with the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department.
"I would think city officials would welcome input from the citizens. This is a local government entity, and as such its business is public knowledge. I was strongly encouraged by the mayor to attend the budget workshop, but it only left me with more questions than I had before," she said.
Morrison said that although police committee members said they were only on a fact-finding mission to explore all options, the only option she heard was regarding the possible consolidation of the police departments.
"Councilwoman (Tiffany) Walraven kept stressing that this was just one option that they were looking at, but no other options were ever presented. In the end, it was decided that possibly two positions within the police department would need to be eliminated in an effort to cut the budget, but there was no other discussion brought up regarding possible job cuts in other department. In fact, the mayor and council will be looking for a qualified applicant to be our new city administrator," she said.
Morrison said she didn’t presume to know what it would take for the city to have a balanced budget, but based on what she heard Thursday night, there were other areas that could be looked at if the city is trying to save money."Eliminating possible positions of those in a department that are there to serve and protect us, but turn around and hire a $60,000 city administrator just doesn’t make sense to me. I only want to be assured that this is done with the best interest of the citizens of Pembroke in mind, and not to settle some personal vendetta against the chief calling it a fact finding mission," she said.
Pembroke Police Chief Bill Collins said that his background prior to becoming chief was business and that he met with Sheriff Clyde Smith Monday in an extended meeting to discuss the business at hand.
Smith "promised that the city would have equal or better service than they have now, at a much reduced cost. The reason being that he is able to purchase cars and other items with seized drug money, and his county systems are already absorbed into the county’s infrastructure, where I have to pay for buildings, insurance and all those other things," Collins said.
"If I look at it as a financial thing, it will be a significant savings for the city. Also, at the end of the 12-month contract agreement, the city will be able to re-evaluate to see if there is anything they want to do either way with that, like extend the contract," he said.
Mayor Judy Cook said she normally doesn’t comment on public comments, but wanted to set the record straight.
"There will be a public hearing Thursday, but being we have so many out here, I want everybody to be aware that it is not a consolidation. The proposal is an intergovernmental contract for one year only. It is a proposal, and if you want to come back Thursday for the public hearing we will discuss this in length, and I will put the figures out there for you to look at," Cook said.
She also addressed claims there was a vendetta against the police chief.
"I want to say it’s not a personal vendetta of any kind for Chief Collins," she said.
Collins said a lot of his concerns were answered in the meeting with the sheriff.
"I pulled myself out of the equation and looked at it as a business, just like you would with your finances. I cannot offer the same thing. If the city needs to take a step back and re-evaluate for a year, I don’t know what else to do," Collins said.
Rick Abdul, owner of Pembroke Pizza, and Cindy Milloy of the United Way also expressed concern over the police issue, but both, again were directed to Thursday night's meeting.
Other business discussed included:
- A new drug and alcohol intervention program, currently operating in Bulloch County at Bulloch Recovery Services, plans to open in Pembroke to offer services to local residents, and wants to work with the judicial system. The plan is to open facilities and staff the office to provide such programs as driver’s education and safety, alcohol and drug treatment intervention, and other like services that currently require residents to travel to Chatham, Bulloch, and further outlying counties to receive.
- Andrew Crowley requested and received a 4-foot variance on property located at 25 Hamilton Court, Pembroke, to build a porch on the back of the yet to be built home so it will match the value required of the property. The only opposition was Angela Reed, who stated the home would still not be within covenants, even with the variance, because it lacked a one car, attached garage required in the covenants, and the home already took all allowed space without the garage.
"If we allow this, we are setting a precedence for covenant violations. If there is no home owners association to enforce the covenants, wouldn’t it fall to the city to make sure the home is in compliance?" she asked.
- Haggray received a rezoning request from B3 to B2 in 2 areas of downtown.
- Kenneth and June Copi’s request for de-annexation for property located at the edge of Pembroke city limits will be forwarded to the county for approval.
- Two large oak trees in bad shape where Joe Aldrich is currently constructing a complex will be cut down, removed and stumps ground at a city expense of $2,200 because the trees are on the city right of way and need to come down. New live oaks will be planted to replace the ones cut down.
- Rick McCoy reported that a letter was received from the DOT commissioner canceling one sidewalk project due to lack of fund, but that two pipe contracts are still in effect for defective underground pipe that needs to be replaced due to collapse. He said the pipe has already been purchased and is in the city lot. The city will be reimbursed by the state for the expense.