RIDGEWAY — Ridgeway Town Council used its first meeting of 2016 to discuss plans for the upcoming year and had a great deal of information to go over.
Mayor Charlene Herring said that while the town has done well, it is vital to maintain a vision going forward.
“Towns can survive, but I think towns need to thrive,” she said. “Ridgeway has done a lot of thriving thanks to our council, merchants, employees, and citizens. With that said, I believe that where there is a vision, there will be a provision.”
One of the key items that came up was the location of the police station. While there were several factors both for maintaining its current location and for potentially moving it to town hall, it was ultimately decided that the station needed to move to Town Hall.
Councilman Heath Cookendorfer pointed out the potential for significant savings by changing the station’s venue.
“Per month, it costs us $477 to operate that police station. It’s $408 to operate this building (town hall),” he said.
Cookendorfer took the proposal a step further and included potential rental income from leasing the current police station out, increasing budget revenue for the town.
Potential issues will include the need for modifications to at least part of the town hall so that it could serve as a secure police facility. There would ideally be a secondary entrance so that residents visiting town hall would not be using the same entrance as law enforcement with, potentially, individuals who have been arrested and are in their custody.
Another liability would be the potential for an individual with mental health issues to have a crisis. While there is no substantial data, incidents involving individuals with mental health issues seem to occur more often at hospitals and police stations where the individual may be seeking assistance.
Officer Officer Chris Culp, who took the lone police officer position in November, said that could pose a significant threat and liability if he is out patrolling the town rather than in the office.
“If an individual with a mental illness comes in, we have to deal with them. I can’t say wait a minute, let me get them in the back of my car in a safe location. Traffic stops are just a small portion of (an officer’s duties.),” he said.
Cookendorfer pointed out that the potential for these types of incidents is there regardless of the location. Culp voiced concern over the liability of having the police station located at the town hall.
“You have people coming in to pay their water bills or to maybe look around, and if I get somebody who has committed a violent crime, they could decide to fight as I’m bringing them in,” he said.
The upside of moving the police station will be substantial, as it could be source of revenue to help pay for a second police officer in Ridgeway. The savings will also be useful in updating equipment which is always a sore need for law enforcement. The council plans to have the station fully moved by the end of February.
Reach James Inabinet at (803) 635-4016.