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Rutherford board grapples with budget issues

With five applications for street supervisor to review, the Rutherford Mayor and Board of Aldermen are looking for the money to offer a reasonable salary.

The board met Monday, Oct. 21 and discussed starting pay for the new position, with Mayor Sandy Simpson suggesting $15 an hour. City Recorder Dawn Smith said there is no money in the street department payroll to hire a supervisor. She said repairs to street equipment has “killed” the department this year.

“If the money’s not there, we can’t pull it out of thin air,” Alderman Danny Parker said. “We need to have another meeting to sit down and figure this out. We have to find [the money] somewhere.”

Parker made a motion to set a meeting to discuss budget amendments, and the board unanimously supported his motion.

The town’s police officers are also requesting a raise. They currently make between $14.50 an hour and $16.50 an hour. Alderperson Annie Edwards said she would like to see them get a $2 an hour raise. Simpson agreed officers deserve a raise but said they also need to be doing more to bring in revenue, which she said she had discussed with Chief Adam Branch.

Smith said the board would have to cut in other areas to find the money for the raises. The board will discuss police pay at its budget amendment meeting.

Citizen complaints – During the police report, Alderman James Roach said people are complaining to him about police officers driving their patrol cars out of the city limits. Roach said it costs the city money in fuel and vehicle maintenance, and the board should look to cut those expenses where possible.

“I’m not fussing about it,” Roach said. “I’m just delivering a message.”

Roach said citizens claimed to have seen Branch’s patrol car parked at his home in Trenton. Branch and Simpson said there are nights when Branch drives his patrol car home if he needs to be at court in Trenton or at an inservice or other meeting out of town early the next morning to save him from driving his personal vehicle to Rutherford to pick up his patrol car when it’s out of his way.

Branch said a police chief should be able to drive a patrol car home all the time.

“If an emergency situation happens, I’ve got to come back, no matter what it is, no matter when it is, and I’m going to have to get here quick,” he said. “We’ve had that happen many times.”

The discussion digressed into an argument about suspected drug deals and what Rutherford police are or aren’t doing.

“We got drugs, but nobody’s doing nothing about it,” Roach said. “What I’m saying is this, I know some people, and I don’t live close to the cemetery, I know people come to me and say there’s drug traffic going on int the cemetery, there’s drug traffic going on in the park. And they ask me this question. Where are our polices? I don’t know because I don’t keep up with them.”

Roach said a citizen told him last week that he had witnessed a drug deal in the cemetery.

“You don’t patrol the city,” Roach said. “That’s what I’m hearing. ‘We don’t ever see them.’”

Branch said officers put 50 to 60 miles a shift on their patrol cars and that one officer per shift doesn’t allow the department to work drugs.

“It’s impossible,” he said.

Branch also said that citizens ask him for more officers and patrols, but when he explains the costs to them, they say the town doesn’t have the money for it.

“It’s a slap in the face when we know what’s going on in certain places, but we can’t do anything about it,” Branch said. “It is a headache.”

Expenses – Simpson said the city had ordered parts to repair the leaf machine at a cost of $2,100.

The board approved a resolution to hire the Municipal Task Advisory Service to update the city’s utility instructions. Half of the money, $3,500, is due at the start. Simpson said the city would be good on revenue if people cited into court are ordered to pay fines.

Simpson also said PRI had given the city a quote of $3,182.41 to repair paving where the city tore out driveways on Main Street to make other repairs. Simpson said she expects FEMA to reimburse the city for the cost.

The Rutherford board meets the third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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