Robbins approves budget, discusses purchase of police vehicles

The Town of Robbins requested documentation of police vehicle maintenance at its regular board meeting on June 10 in a discussion over budget allowances for replacement vehicles. The discussion included purchasing surplus vehicles instead of new or late models with less mileage.

The fiscal year 2021-2022 budget was adopted, and the allowance for the replacement of police vehicles in 2022 is $20,000, but the police department had requested $70,408 for replacement of police vehicles.

Commissioner Kevin Stewart said there was an overall increase of $78,323 to the police department’s budget from last year.

The administrative salaries budget has an increase of $17,589.76, according to the 2021-2022 budget report. Commissioner Joey Boswell said in a phone call to Sandhills Sentinel that the increase for administrative salaries is to cover contractual services of an accountant and for accredited public works persons. The town does not have an accountant or a public works director.

During public comments, Brandon McGaha with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association spoke in support of purchasing newer police department vehicles, on examining the board’s lack of reserves for more police officers, and the risk of endangering public safety with less efficient equipment and possible lack of personnel.

McGaha discusses the trend of police departments not being properly funded on June 10 at the regular board meeting in Robbins.

After public comments, Stewart said with today’s technology, a vehicle can last longer with proper maintenance.

For comparison, State Capitol Police vehicles are up to 9 years old with an average of 147,654 miles before replacement, according to a 2013 North Carolina General Assembly Report, as seen on page 19.

According to Boswell, Robbins Police Department has a 9-year-old 2012 Dodge Charger with 136,000 miles. The department has two 2014 Ford Explorers. One has 114,000 miles, and the other has 117,000 miles. It also has a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe with 116,000 miles, a 2015 Ford Explorer with 125,000 miles, a 2017 Doge Charger with 62,000 miles, and a 2019 Chevrolet Ram with 16,000 miles. All miles are approximate.

“What hurts more than miles is idling miles. Idling is the worst thing,” Boswell said in a phone call to Sandhills Sentinel.

During much of the operating time of a police vehicle, it is sitting idle, according to Robbins Police Chief Thomas Lawson. He said if a vehicle is out of service for repairs, it puts a strain on the fleet because it means a vehicle will be in operation 24/7.

Councilwoman and mayor pro tem Nikki Bradshaw said the board supports every department that works for the town. “The budget is not easy and not simple,” Bradshaw said. “There’s never been any discussion of defunding the police.”

The town’s 2021-2022 budget is $1,428,050.

Interim Town Manager Jon Barlow said the budget was in balance, and there will be a deduction of one cent per 100 valuations in property taxes. There are no reserve funds for new personnel in the new budget. There is only a modest capital expense and that is for software at $3,400. 

“The water and sewer [budget] has been struggling for many years with a net loss in depreciation,” Barlow said. “On a cash basis, it is doing OK. In coming years, we need to really keep an eye on that and bring up that depreciation.”

In new business, the board approved annexing 2.03 acres belonging to the Clarence and Edith Hussey Trust. The annexation will place the property into Robbins’ city limits, allowing access to utilities. The property is planned for retail use and is located off Highway 705 near the old produce stand.

The rezoning proposal for Sunset Hills was continued until the next regular board meeting, citing a needed investigation into septic needs.

Feature photo: Board members meet on June 10 at the fire department to allow seating for public comments.

~Article, photo, and video by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers.

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