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Monday, 16 April 2018 05:05

Hamlet City Council Debates Budgetary Items

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Tsunami 360 Camera Representative Describes Product at March Council Meeting Tsunami 360 Camera Representative Describes Product at March Council Meeting Photo by C.K. Craven

HAMLET - In a special budgetary session on Tuesday, April 10th, the Hamlet City Council engaged in a spirited discussion regarding stewardship of the town’s funds.

On the agenda were no less than eleven specific items up for consideration, as well as proposed revisions in sewer and water supply fees. 

The conservative focus of the Council members was on full display as each of them at one point or another voiced concerns over the necessity and/or cost of various line items. 

Close scrutiny was applied to every proposed request from the various departments of the City, so much so that most of them were tabled for further consideration at a later date. 

Perhaps the approach was best described by Councilman Jonathan Buie when he espoused the idea that “It may be best that we not get in too deep at this point” and “maybe wait six months to a year before committing” to many of the items under consideration. 

Buie’s perspective was seconded by Councilman Jesse McQueen.  It was his contention that, given the statutory requirement that cities maintain a balanced budget - a necessity that does not apply to the federal government – caution was indeed a good philosophy at this juncture in the budgeting process. 

“We have to be mindful of the difference between our ‘needs’ versus our ‘wants,’” said McQueen.  “Some of these things we have to have for the good of our community, but others may be something that we can wait on.” 

Some of the things that, in the judgment of the Council, could be “waited on” were requests by the Police Department that, in the collective mindset of the town’s officers, were in fact essential to being able to properly maintain law and order in Hamlet. 

“We really need that positon for a drug and gang officer,” said HPD’s Chad Haywood.   “We know of the activity associated with those aspects of policing; it’s not good,” Haywood noted, making the point that the Hamlet Police Department is very open and forthcoming with crime statistics that reveal “real world” occurrences. 

“We report everything that we see,” said Haywood, “and sometimes that may hurt us in making Hamlet look like we have a gang problem.”  He went on to say that “Our gang problem is no different from that of other towns our size, but since we go public with that information, people read about it and think it’s terrible.” 

It is this very set of data that Councilman McQueen and his fellow councilpersons were interested in reviewing further before making decisions on the budgetary requests of the police. 

While not “terrible,” and thus not in contradiction to the views of Councilman McQueen (himself a former law enforcement officer), it is the position of HPD that ANY gang activity is sufficient to warrant a specialist to combat the proliferation of such, given the small number of officers in relation to the population of Hamlet. 

Regardless, the debate shall continue; subsequent to prolonged discussion and in-depth analysis, the Council voted to table any further discussion on the following proposed budget items: 

Car for City Hall ($21,000); new entrance signs for the city ($15,000); pick-up truck for the Fire Department ($14,000); all-wheel-drive Charger for the Police Deparment ($36,517); assault rifles for the Police Department ($4550); Tsunami 360 cameras for the Police Department ($24,000); and a drug & gang officer position for the Police Department ($48,409).

Those items that were determined to be immediately necessary included: 

South Hamlet basketball court repaving ($60,000); air packs (2) for the Fire Department ($14,000); and a truck (F-450) for maintenance and clean-up of streets and highways ($39,000). 

Additional review transpired in regard to proposed adjustments in fees for sewer and water services. 

Specifically, it was determined that such charges should better reflect the actual usage of resources.  Consequently, noting that “no rate increase has been implemented since 2008,” the city manager proposed a means by which the “widening gap between expenditures and revenue” could be abridged in a manner that would be fair and equitable to all residents of Hamlet and the outlying areas served by the City. 

Specific budget figures, once finalized, will be made available via the City of Hamlet’s website.  

Last modified on Monday, 16 April 2018 16:33
C.K. Craven

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