(12/9/2003) Around town, it appears
that the heat is off for the winter, but it may be turned back
on in the spring.
Woodsboro's two-month experiment with
community deputies ended Nov. 30, and members of the town's
board of commissioners said it was a hit with many residents
and could become a permanent contracted service during
warm-weather months. Burgess Donald Trimmer said finances may
be the key to the program's longevity.
"As far as we're concerned," the
burgess said, "it was a very successful adventure, those two
months. Everything worked out as well as, if not better than,
what we expected. ... I guess the only thing we have to worry
about is next year, budget time."
The community deputy program allows
municipalities to have officers work in a town for specific
periods. The deputies patrol town streets during that time but
may respond to emergency calls outside town.
The extra law enforcement presence
wasn't contracted because hardened criminals were prowling
Woodsboro's streets. Instead, the deputies were hired to
combat nuisances such as speeders, vandals, trespassers and
even insurgent skateboarders. The commissioners followed the
sheriff''s office suggestion to discontinue the program in the
winter because fewer people are out and about.
Commissioner Kenneth Morgan said he
heard only positive comments about the additional deputy
attention in the town. The deputies, he said, got
skateboarders out of the streets and affected other behaviors.
"I know that they did slow down
speeders on Main Street," he said, "and they did cut down on
the loafers hanging out around the bank and in parking lots."
Mr. Trimmer said the town hasn't
received reports from the sheriff's office yet, but residents
"didn't mind us using their tax money for that purpose."
The way Woodsboro utilized the
program, it wasn't that expensive. Deputies worked only three
four-hour shifts each week. To operate the program from March
to October, as Woodsboro might do, would cost the town roughly
$15,000 a year.
While that might not seem like a lot
of money, it represents more than 5 percent of the town's
$284,000 budget for this fiscal year, which ends on June 30,
2004. It's at that time the value of and need for the program
will be assessed against its cost.
"We'll probably do it another three to
four months in the spring and see how we come out," Mr.
Trimmer said. "Then it will be budget time again, and we'll
need to reevaluate or look at our budget."
If the elected leaders decide the
program should continue eight months annually, Mr. Trimmer
said the town might have to raise its real property tax one to
two cents to cover the expense. That rate currently is 42
cents per $100 of assessed value.
The tax increase may not be what the
commissioners and citizens would want, but there are more
costly alternatives. Mr. Trimmer said hiring a full-time
deputy would cost $50,000 to $60,000, so the limited program
Mr. Morgan said he favors reinstating
the program in the spring, but like Mr. Trimmer, he's not
ready to say he would increase taxes to have extra deputy
attention on a more permanent basis. He said the town perhaps
could use someone to issue citations to scofflaw skateboarders
and violators of non-traffic ordinances, such as those
governing grass height. The deputies won't write such
"I'd have to compare that benefit with
the benefit of hiring someone to issue citations a couple of
hours a week," Mr. Morgan said. "We may need both. I hate to
make a decision until we've heard from the sheriff's
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