GIBSON —A resident’s request for more police protection spurred a heated debate at Thursday night’s Gibson Town Board meeting.
Gibson resident Sarah Wright asked town commissioners what was being about crime in the town of about 540 people. Gibson does not have its own police department.
“The drugs are rampant,” Wright said. “They are extremely bad here. Also the thefts … you can’t walk out the door without locking everything up.”
She said that when she calls the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, it can take deputies up 90 minutes to respond. Wright said deputies have told her that the town needs it own police force.
Mayor Ronnie Hudson told Wright that the sheriff’s office is suppose to provide adequate protection. He added that the drug problems and crime are not unique to Gibson.
“Next time, be sure and get their names, because they’re the ones that supposed to be supplying our protection,” Hudson said.
But town commissioner Lula Cuttingham, a long-time proponent of more law enforcement, said Sheriff Ralph Kersey promised to improve enforcement when he was running for office.
“He told us he was going to have a deputy over here in something like a substation for him to be in and out of,” she said. “Those were his very words.”
Commissioner Ken Haney said that Cuttingham needed to call Kersey and ask him about his promise.
“You can’t just sit here in these meetings,” Haney said. “You’re a town council member … call him and ask him. If you don’t act you’re not going to get any reaction. Stay on him until he sends somebody over here.”
Haney said he did not think Gibson could afford pay an officer, whose the basic salary is $45,000 a year. Basic insurance is $328 a month or $4,000 a year. The basic car is $22,000, totaling $65,000. Uniforms will cost $4,000, according to Haney.
“To fund a police officer in this town, you’ve got to raise the ad valorem tax $0.38. Everybody is not like you and go over to the tax office and get a homestead exemption, we have to pay the full bill,” Haney said.”Now if you can convince these people to raise their raise their tax $0.38 plus what they’re paying for the county, then go hire all the policemen you want.”
He also suggested Wright run for town council on the issue of police protection.
“I’m tired of hearing about it,” he said.
Wright said she may have protect her property herself.
“I hate to think that I have to walk across my yard with a gun on my hip.” she said. “If I have to, I will. What are the taxes used for? I pay my taxes… I expect something in return.”
Hudson encouraged residents to attend the next community crime meeting at 6 p.m. on July 28.
In a related matter, Haney expressed concern about papers not being served on a resident accused of tampering with a water meter. A court date was given, but on that day the clerk learned the resident was never served.
“It’s not a lot of money but we took the time to send our clerk over there to attend court and she sits around and bottom line is the sheriff’s office had never served the paper. In the mean time, we probably could have gotten a judgment against the people but they have since moved out of town and stuck us with that. It’s not a lot of money, but I am disappointed with the Sheriff’s Office failing to do their job,” he said.
Also on Thursday, the board said that work on the town’s water tank has begun. According to Hudson, 99,000 pounds of pressure damaged the street in front of Gibson Manor. Repairs were made with the help of the city of Laurinburg.
In other business, resident Tony Swicegood, owner of Swicegood Land and Cattle, Eastern Division told the council he wanted to rezone his property from residential to commercial. He also wanted to get permission to add some goats to help clear off the land.
Council said Swicegood would need to bring information about contractors and building details. Haney said it would be premature for the council to approve it without those items.
Commissioner Stephen Hudson stated city ordinances do not allow hoofed animals.
In other business, the board said the Town Depot will open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Aug 6 and will be open every first Saturday.
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 910-506-3171.