02/26/04 — Mt. Olive officials ponder budget requests

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Mt. Olive officials ponder budget requests

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 26, 2004 1:58 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town board members heard requests for more money from Public Works and Mount Olive Police departments during a workshop Thursday morning.

Police Chief Emmett Ballree said he has lots of turnover in his department, and he's getting "thin on experience."

This past year, he's lost 12 people. He knows of one officer who's looking for another job. "Everybody else seems happy to be here," said Ballree, who has been losing officers to Duplin County, Wayne County and smaller agencies.

"We all know we need to address salaries to stop the flow to other departments," he said. "It seems when we do this, the other departments do, too, and we're basically just catching up."

Ballree said he will never get even with places like the Goldsboro Police Department, which pays the lowest ranking sergeant $40,000 and the new officer $28,000. But he said he wants to "at least be in the ball park."

McDonald told the board that Ballree would like to be able to pay $24,000 to $26,000. Ballree said that with $24,000 or $26,000, he could go into any academy and sell the town of Mount Olive to the graduates.

"We can't do a $4,000 raise at one time," said McDonald, who suggested a $2,000 raise now and then more in July at the beginning of the next fiscal year. "Once we know someone's going to leave, I get an exit interview. Nine times out of 10, when I ask why they're leaving, they say they need to do better to provide for their family."

McDonald said Social Services officials told him a family of four with an income of $23,000 is eligible for assistance. "We have nine employees eligible for food stamps," he said. "That is wrong. ... If I were those people, I'd be looking, too."

Ballree said some of his officers are working second jobs, and it's hard for him to ask them to stop when they're making only $22,000.

Town Commissioner Jimmy Kornegay said an officer who recently left for another town said he would have stayed if the money had been equal. "Money is the reason they're leaving," he said. "Basically, we've been a training station."

Having to replace experienced officers with inexperienced people is costly. By the time the town pays an officer who is leaving his vacation time, his sick leave and other benefits, the town has spent $5,000 in hidden costs. "And you're losing experience," said McDonald.

The department is running 10 patrol cars and keeping another one to scavenge for parts to keep the others running. One of the cars wrecked recently, and the insurance adjuster gave $9,000 as a price for the vehicle, which is five years old and had already been involved in a previous wreck. It's jinxed, said McDonald.

Ballree said it would cost about $22,000 to replace the car, when you added on all of the lights and other equipment.

Street sweeper

The Public Works Department also said it needed a brush hog, a back hoe and a street sweeper.

Onlookers tease the workers about the street sweeper. It picks up dirt off the curb and sets it back down in the middle of the street.

The sweeper, bought in 1984, has been a lemon from day one and needs to be replaced, said Public Works Director Glen Holland.

It cost about $75,000. The company that made it has gone out of business, and the parts are expensive to replace.

Holland estimated a new street sweeper would cost $86,800.

A company representative gave a demonstration of a street sweeper that the town may buy, and Town Manager Ray McDonald said it even sucked up stuff out of the cracks, like grass growing in them, in the rain. Most street sweepers won't work in the rain, he said.

The town has been buying equipment in lease-purchase agreements lately, said McDonald. The old street sweeper is fragile, he said.

"I think the street sweeper needs to be replaced," he said. "It's killing us."