Rumors have been flying around Pembroke about the future of its police department.
According to Mayor Judy Cook, the rumors are just rumors, and the police committee was only looking into options that would help the budget.
"I don’t know how it got so out of hand. We are not trying to abolish the Pembroke Police Department. What we did was go on a fact finding mission to try to better the budget. We are not trying to get rid of the police department," she said at the budget workshop held Thursday at City Hall.
Council member Tiffany Walraven said the police committee met with Sheriff Clyde Smith to discuss possible options such as the city contracting the Sheriff’s department for city patrol in an effort to help the city budget."When trying to prepare a budget and cut costs, we have to look at multiple options, and talking to the Sheriff’s Department was one of those options. It’s nothing against the Pembroke Police Department or any of its employees. We are simply looking at options to save money," she said.
Walraven said one of the comparison items looked at was hours of office operation.
"The Pembroke PD office hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, where the Sheriff’s office operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year counting on-call officers," she said.
If the transition took place, Walraven said the request was made for a minimum of two officers in the city limits at all times so Pembroke would not be left unprotected if officers were in other areas of the county.
"State law says county police departments can enforce city ordinances. Also, the city would not be responsible for liability of county officers nor would we have to pay liability insurance or have liability coverage, which would save the city money. The downfall is the city could not oversee the Sheriff’s department as it does the city department," Walraven said.
Chief Bill Collins, present at the meeting, expressed concern over the future of the PD staff if the transition took place.
Cook said the council is not looking to put people out of jobs, only better the budget.
"I can guarantee two things. Chief Collins and administrator Jennifer Baxter would go over to the Sheriff’s Department, if it takes place. The rest of the full time officers and staff would also have a chance to transition over to the Sheriff," she said.
Council member Tony Greeson was concerned about losing good officers on the current PPD staff because of concerns they wouldn't get a job with BCSD.
"We have some really good officers who do their jobs very well, and I don’t like going into the holidays with uncertainty in anyone’s job. I don’t want to see the officers who are doing their job well to lose it," he said.
Comparison figures stated in the workshop were an estimated budget for the Pembroke PD at $734,000, and the cost of the Sheriff’s Department taking over city patrol to be about $300,000. The city would, however, lose the $250,000 projected fines and forfeiture revenues generated by the Pembroke Police.
Angela Reed, council member, said she doesn’t think loosing the Pembroke PD is in the best interest of the budget.
"The proposed budget for the PPD is $734,000, but then you have to subtract out the $250,000 projected fines and revenues generated to get a better idea at the true cost. When taking the fines and revenues from the projected police budget that leaves an estimated cost of $484,000, which is a $184,000 difference between keeping the Pembroke PD and the estimated cost of the Sheriff’s Department taking over," she said.
"I think we need to be cutting things like office supplies, cell phones, and the council’s gas allowances, among others for example, rather than cut the police department and the safety of our citizens," Reed said.
Cook suggested that the police committee meet with both Chief Collins and the Sheriff Tuesday to go over all options and also see what type of cuts could be made to improve the budget.
Collins said he would do whatever he could to assist with the budget issues.
Other budget discussions included:
Water department projected revenues of $1.13 million and expenses of $1.096 million, providing a department surplus of approximately $34,000.
Fire department $115,517 estimated budget, and a Public Works budget, which includes the Street Department, projected at $616,000.
"The Public Works budget, however, currently includes $50,000 in city match funds required to pave a street and $60,000 to continue the downtown streetscape project. Those two are not typically in the budget," said City Clerk Betty Hill.
Overall projected city revenues were estimated at $1.755 million and expenses projected of $1.928 million, leaving a deficit of approximately $173,740 in the budget as discussed Thursday.
Cook said the budget is not final and reviews will continue.
"The problem is that we have no reserve and no contingency funds. We will continue to review the budget and see what we can do to make it better," she said.