01/27/06 — Mount Olive awaiting grant to hire officer

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Mount Olive awaiting grant to hire officer

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 27, 2006 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town officials are crossing their fingers and watching for the mailman, hoping he will bring good news about a grant that would pay for a new police officer and patrol car.

The grants from the governor's highway safety fund go to traffic enforcement to reduce fatalities and increase seat-belt use. If and when the letter from the governor's office arrives, town officials will take it before the town board of commissioners for their approval.

Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said a large part of the officers' time now is used answering calls and making sure local businesses are secured. He doesn't have any officer assigned to do just traffic work. And the new officer would have other duties, too.

"If we get new businesses traffic will increase," he said. "It will be important to be able to work traffic more."

Ballree wrote the grant application several months ago but town officials have not heard from the Governor's Office and did not hold out a lot of hope.

But Ballree recently received a phone call from state officials, saying he needed to revise his grant application and ask for just one officer instead of two and cut the amount of money sought to about $58,000.

Ballree originally asked for two cars and two full-time officers.

Another one of the changes Ballree had to make was the date the new officer was to report to work. The Oct. 1 start date became Feb. 1 instead.

The contact has given town officials new hope.

"We think we're in pretty good shape to get it," Ballree said. "We certainly need it. We need the vehicle, and the extra man is going to be nice, too."

This would be a one-time grant to cover one year's salary and benefits for the new police officer and help the town buy the patrol car. Ballree would have to apply for another grant next year, or the town would have to pick up the tab.

"You always have to keep that in mind," he said. "Years ago when the COPs program started they threw money at you. The president wanted 100,000 new police officers on the streets. But we had to keep in mind that we would have to absorb the cost after the first three years."