LAURINBURG — The idea of hiring a consultant to help the Laurinburg Police Department fight crime was met with some resistance this week by the city’s top cop.
The issue was one of many that came up during the Laurinburg City Council’s five-hour planning session on Tuesday.
Councilwoman Mary Evans said she suggested that the city explore the consultant concept as Laurinburg looks for ways to reduce crime.
“I’m going back to the mission statement of our city about having a secure community,” Evans said, “Sometimes we just need more knowledge of what we can do and what we can’t.”
But Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams said he considered the suggestion something of an “insult” to his department.
Williams ticked off a number of initiatives that city police are working on including partnerships with state and federal officials to tackle the opioid problem; and Project Heatwave, a program to help get guns and drugs off the streets.
“I would like you (council members) to come do a ride along at 3 a.m. and get a better look at what we do and how we do it,” Williams said. “I encourage all of you — I would appreciate that.”
Williams said he was not sure what a consultant could add to the many efforts being made by police.
“My command staff has over 200 years of experience … local experience,” Williams said. “I don’t want to insult my staff because they bust their tails.”
Councilman James Garby praised the work of city police, but said an another viewpoint may be helpful. He added that police are one of the city’s biggest expenditures and council must maximize how taxpayer money is spent.
“I think that a consultant would be a good idea,” Garby said. “You do a very good job and nobody is questioning that. The thing is we have to change and progress and move forward and what will an outside opinion actually hurt.”
Williams said that he would look into the idea and talk to his staff about it.
Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams said that she would agree with what the chief decided after his review.
Council also discussed the idea of a community center — a topic that seems to be a perennial issue for city leaders.
Evans said she would like to see a facility that was centrally located and included not just youth sports, but a swimming pool and activities for all ages.
“It’s something a lot of people might feel that’s not needed but it is needed in this community,” Evans said, “It will bring us, even closer together than what we are right now.”
Mayor Matthew Block, who has pushed the idea for several years, said a community center could help Laurinburg attract and retain residents.
“You want to continue to have people not choose to stay in Laurinburg ….. who complain that there’s nothing to do in Laurinburg,” Block said. “You’re just going to be chasing your tail.”
Adams reminded council that the cost of building and maintaining the project — in the millions — has always been a stumbling block.
“I think there could be grant money to build a million dollar building,” she said. “The problem is the million dollars a year to maintain it and staff it. The city didn’t have the money, the county didn’t have the money and the taxpayers don’t want their taxes to go up.”
Councilman Drew Williamson said he would like to have other community entities like the hospital, schools and county involved in the center project.
“We should all be working together on something like this,” Williamson said.“That means more than just us talking about it.”
Council also discuss the site of the city’s recycling center that was moved to Public Works. While some residents have requested that the site to be more centrally located, officials said the site where stay where it is for the time being. The recycling site was moved from behind City Hall because of construction on a new facility.
After almost five hours, council members were only able to get to about 15 of the 25 topics on the agenda. The retreat will a recess to until Tuesday at 6 p.m in the city council chambers in the municipal building.
Council roles. City Attorney William Floyd led the discussion on the roles and expectations of the council members and the mayor as well as reviewing the mission statement. “You really are a board of directors, in just about every way…” Floyd said.
Downtown beautification. Block suggested planners change the look of downtown, adding trees instead of the planters and more parking spaces.
Delegations. Adams suggested creating a time limit for delegations so that the meetings will not go as long as they have in the past. Council agreed that most delegations be limited to 10-15 minutes.
Redrawn districts. officials said any change to District 1 and District 2 will have to wait until the 2020 census.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171