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CAROLINA SHORES—Town commissioners on Tuesday voted against contracting with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office to provide additional law enforcement protection for Carolina Shores and Calabash.
The unanimous vote at the specially called meeting came after all five commissioners voiced concern about the minimal annual cost of $150,000 for an entry-level officer, which the two towns would split if both approved such a contract.
“This $150,000 really bothers me,” commissioner Tom Puls said. “I campaigned on not having a police department at all based on the crime rate we have currently. It certainly does not warrant it.”
He preferred the possibility of the county establishing a sheriff’s substation in the Grissettown area, which county commissioners are slated to review for their upcoming budget.
“We don’t have to pay for [substations],” Puls said. “At the present time, we don’t need a police station. To put this kind of expenditure on the citizens of the town is absolutely ridiculous.”
Fellow commissioner John Russo agreed, pointing out the basic rate is only for a 12-hour shift.
Commissioner Jack Csernecky objected to the sheriff’s office proposal to use off-duty deputies for those shifts, which would entail paying them overtime on different pay scales based on experience. He also questioned the department’s proposal to charge the town additional mileage at a rate 24 cents.
“If we’re going to do [this] with part-timers, you lost the benefit of having one person around who gets to know your area,” he said. “Right now, it doesn’t benefit us.”
Commissioner Gere Dale said the $150,000 would be repetitive each year, “and will probably escalate as salaries escalate. So who knows in two to three years what that might be. We would have multiple people…available when they’re off-shift.”
Carolina Shores Mayor Stephen Selby said the crime rate in the town has been minimal since a rash of break-ins was solved last year. He also questioned the capability of an off-duty officer.
“We’re really not going to get 100 percent of his abilities and skills,” Selby said. “We’re not going to get the same level of service, because he’s physically tired after pulling a 12-hour shift.”
He said it was his understanding the original plan was to hire a deputy to work specifically for the towns, “not somebody at time-and-a-half rate.”
FD PURSUIT APPROVED
Commissioners however did approve pursuing the possibility of having an interlocal agreement with the town of Calabash for overseeing the Calabash Fire Department.
Dale, who has served as the town’s liaison with the fire department board, described the move as a “visionary proposal as to how a municipal commission board reporting to municipal governments might be formed.”
“The more important thing is the concept of whether a merger between Calabash and Carolina Shores will operate a joint municipal fire department, is really what we ought to be talking about,” Dale said.
The fire department board has looked at a number of options: 1) doing nothing and leaving the fire department as it is; 2) going under the auspices of the county; 3) placing the department under the “municipal purview” of either Calabash or Carolina Shores; or, the current option under preliminary consideration, a merger between the two towns in terms of the fire department.
Dale said the fire department board has “basically determined that they do not feel that any of the alternatives that have been proposed and discussed at considerable length offer any long-term merit.”
“Something has to be done, because the status quo and going with the county are really not two viable options,” he said.
He added it’s “premature to talk about where this thing will go. There are a great deal of logistic problems that would have to be addressed. This is a small crawling step. There’s not nearly enough information or expertise to say that this can work or that it can’t work.”
Selby said the process depends on a partnership between the two towns.
“If Calabash doesn’t [approve], that puts it in a whole new frame,” he said.