MAXTON — Town commissioners voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday in favor of standing by their recent decision to lay off two full-time police officers as a step toward bringing Maxton’s financial problems under control.
Commissioner James McDougald during Tuesday’s monthly board meeting urged commissioners to reconsider the effect eliminating the two officers would have on welfare of the community.
“With the high-call volume, and officers already operating on furlough, these positions shouldn’t be eliminated,” he said. “And summer is coming. Things get a little crazy over the summer.”
Voting with McDougald was Commissioner Victor Womack. Voting against the motion to reconsider the layoffs were Commissioners Cynthia Johnson, Tim McMillan and Mark McEachin.
The vote was the same on April 5 when the board voted to lay off the officers. At the recommendation of Womack, the commissioners did agree, however, to hire part-time officers if the need arises for additional police officers.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Police Chief Damon Williams urged the board not to cut his force, a move he contends would hurt his department’s ability to provide Maxton residents with the best service.
“This is going to hurt us, but we will use every resource we have to get the job done,” he said. “I don’t think the citizens will see changes in our operations.”
Williams said that his department is down to 11 full-time officers from the 14 full-time officers he started with in 2011. Scheduling is now a problem, with the chief himself, as well as the captain and lieutenant, having to work shifts when there are not enough officers to provide adequate coverage.
“Cutting two more officers will really have a major impact, not just to the citizens of Maxton, but to the morale of the department,” Williams said.
Williams told The Robesonian after the meeting that he is looking at other options that he believes could be implemented that would save the town money and have less of impact on the department’s ability to serve.
Williams said that there has been no decision made on which officers will lose their jobs.
“Everyone in the department works so diligently. We have officers that come out even when they aren’t on duty just to help,” he said. “We are like a family. It will be a tough decision to make as to who will go. We’ll just have to do the best we can to minimize the impact on citizens and the two officers.”
Williams said that the residents of Maxton can help by reporting criminal activity in the community.
“They can be the eyes and ears of the Police Department,” he said.
Mayor Sallie McLean defended the board’s position.
“We do what we got to do,” McLean said. “If we don’t make cuts where we can, Maxton will never again be the way it was. … Sometimes you just have to lower the hammer.”
McLean said she expects more cuts in programs, services and possibly personnel.
“We don’t want to do it, but there will have to be cuts,” McLean said. “If we don’t make cuts, the town can’t move forward.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.