Bude votes to add two police officers

by Sean Dunlap

The Bude Board of Aldermen voted by a 3-1 margin during a special called meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10 to hire two part-time police officers to provide additional manpower for the town’s law enforcement agency.

Chief Reggie Cain recommended adding Kenneth Short, who had previously worked for the Bude Police Department in a part-time capacity, along with Derek Bethley on an as-needed basis to the force.

At present, Cain and Everett Marshall, who is working part-time as a retiree, are the only two officers working for the town.

Town attorney Mary Kathryn Williamson, who joined the session by telephone, immediately asked if the municipal budget could sustain the potential hires.

Town Clerk Kimberly A. Vaughn said any additional officers brought aboard would likely require an amendment to the town’s revenue and spending plan for fiscal year 2023.

“I guess that’s my question — can we afford it?” Williamson asked.

“We’ll definitely have to look at some things in the budget to offset this,” Vaughn responded. “This request was not budgeted.”

“Well, is this do-able?” Williamson then inquired.

“Yes, but it’s going to be tight,” Vaughn went on to say, “and there’s going to have to be some (budget) sacrifices for sure down the road.”

Mayor Linda Green asked for additional clarification related to the town’s ability to hire the officers.

“It’s do-able,” Vaughn replied. “We’re just starting out on the new fiscal year, and we really won’t start to see (ad valorem) tax revenues until February ... that’s when the town’s money starts rolling in.”

Alderman James Griffith said he, too, was concerned about funding and ultimately cast the lone dissenting vote on the hiring request.

Additionally beyond salary concerns, Vaughn said any worker who has more than 20 hours on the clock could also potentially cost the town in terms of PERS — Public Employee Retirements System — contributions.

“Anything 20 hours and over gets into PERS and that’s going to cost you along with the salaries,” Vaughn continued.

Green asked both police officer candidates if they were willing to work in their positions based on the limitations that had been discussed.

Short asked town leaders about the 30 hours he had worked when he was previously employed as a part-time Bude police officer.

“That was budgeted at that particular time,” Vaughn answered. “(New hires) are not in the current budget that went into effect on Oct. 1.”

To the best of his recollection, Cain said he believed money for police pay in the past had been tied to grants or coronavirus funding.

Williamson then asked how many hours Marshall was working as a part-time officer.

Vaughn said Marshall, as a state retiree, was being paid a flat monthly salary in line with PERS guidelines and his compensation was not based on hourly work — though he is putting in the time.

Griffith questioned whether the two new officers being considered by the town would be eligible for the municipality’s insurance coverage.

Vaughn said those under 30 hours do not participate in such coverage plans.

“So, they’re supposed to work for us with no insurance?” Griffith asked.

“They probably have other police officer jobs that provide their coverage,” Vaughn said.

“Their other coverage is not going to help them if they get hurt here,” Griffith continued.

Vaughn said the potential hires would be covered under workers’ compensation, but medical insurance is not part of the town’s benefits package for part-timers working below the 30-hours threshold.

Short told aldermen he did not plan to seek insurance coverage through Bude even if it was offered.

Alderman Jeffrey Quick said the bottom line was if the town hired the two part-time police officers, could it pay them for their services?

Vaughn answered in the affirmative, but said it would likely entail reworking the budget later in the year.

“They do need the officers and I haven’t said anything that would indicate (Cain) doesn’t need them,” she continued.

Griffith asked Short where he was living and the officer replied Brookhaven while Bethley reportedly lives locally.

Griffith restated his concerns that Bude had adopted a razor-thin budget and he did not favor cutting certain areas of that plan to fund the police department.

Green said, in her opinion, the new hires were needed to enhance police protection locally.

“We need the (law enforcement) coverage,” Green noted.

Quick said he repeatedly hears from constituents about concerns tied to public safety, and noted those complaints need to be taken into consideration by the town in building up staffing.

Williamson questioned whether the hires would help Bude move toward 24-7 law enforcement coverage — one of the major criticisms of town police.

Griffith added he was also concerned that two law enforcement personnel — Cain and Short — reside in Brookhaven and the proposed hire would not help in addressing the issue raised by Williamson.
Green said she would be working with Cain and officers to develop a schedule that will expand police coverage in the town, but Griffith said he doubted such a schedule could fill most gaps.

In the end, Aldermen Quick, Norma Jean Kelly and John Knight voted to make the hires with Alderman Jillian Dunmore not present for the session.