Westover to contract with sheriff’s office

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Over the lone &uot;no&uot; vote of Councilmember Susan Strickland (formerly Wooten) and the objection of many in attendance, the Westover Town Council recently approved a contract with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department for police services.

The council also heard the first reading of an ordinance to place a one-and-a-half-cent sales tax on businesses within the police jurisdiction to pay for the service.

The cost of the 12-month contract is not to exceed $34,200.

The current sales tax in the corporate limits of Westover is 3 cents on the dollar, according to City Clerk Wayne Jones.

The action taken on Sept. 20 was in conjunction with a similar contract approved by Indian Springs Village to split the cost of a deputy with Westover.

And the deputy would spend 20 hours per week in Westover.

Before the vote, Councilmember Strickland read from the Indian Springs newsletter.

The newsletter stated a show of hands was requested from the public in attendance at the town council meeting before the vote was taken on its half of the Sheriff’s Office contract.

&uot;They listened to their citizens,&uot; Strickland said.

The Westover Council did not call for a show of hands before voting. And following the vote, resident Clara Pickens said, &uot;This is wrong. This is a dictatorship. The community should have a right to vote.&uot;

Following the meeting, Strickland expressed concerns regarding the council’s actions.

&uot;The Westover Town Council has lost their way and is not doing their job properly by not listening to the people,&uot; Strickland said.

&uot;They need to stop and realize what they are doing. The tax on the police jurisdiction is taxation without representation.&uot;

Strickland said the money (to be spent on the contract) should instead be spent on fire hydrants.

Councilmember Jeanne Champion-Fisch said the tax being considered to pay for the contract is &uot;on businesses in the police jurisdiction. It’s not for the individuals. And it’s a sales tax.&uot;

Mayor Mark McLaughlin defended the contract with the sheriff’s department.

&uot;It’s about the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,&uot; McLaughlin said.

He also said input from the public has been overwhelmingly in favor of the contract.

McLaughlin said the town of Westover is getting in line with other cities by simply applying a police jurisdiction.

&uot;We are not raising taxes,&uot; he said.

He further stressed that with the tax in the police jurisdiction funding the service, the town is actually giving the Sheriff’s Department less (from its pockets) than it gave the Fire Department.

Councilmember Ed Bahr said he thought when Westover became a municipality, it lost county police protection.

However, he said he has learned since the vote that the town would receive protection as it always did from the county.

With the contract, however, a deputy would be assigned to patrol strictly Westover for a certain time period.

He said he was comfortable with his vote.

McLaughlin said a referendum would cost thousands of dollars. But he said the council gets input from the public every day.

He also said of the 20 hours per day a deputy would spend in Westover, the space already exists and will not cost the town.

The vote for the tax in the police jurisdiction could come up on Tuesday, Oct. 4 council agenda.