It’s budget time for Vance County, and the Vance County Board of Commissioners met Monday night and Tuesday night for more than four combined hours in budget sessions.
A priority emerged Tuesday night, and that is adding about $250,000 in additional funding to the proposed upcoming county fiscal year budget to provide additional manpower to Vance County Sheriff Curtis Brame’s Office and his efforts at the jail.
In simplified terms, the Vance County Sheriff’s Office gets three more deputies and another lieutenant, while the Vance County Jail gets two more personnel to help with reducing workloads and safety concerns for jail employees and prison transports. To be clear, two deputy positions were in the originally proposed budget and now an additional deputy and an additional lieutenant are set to be added to the proposed budget.
After lengthy discussion by the board, Brame was asked to speak.
He said, “Vance County is a hub for heroin.” He said that hub was in Durham and now it is here. He said he needed more support and manpower to fix the problem. He said, “Nobody is dealing from home. If you see two cars meet in the street, they’re passing dope.”
Commissioner Tommy Hester said as he understood it, about $122,500 would fund two more deputy positions.
Commission Chair Archie Taylor said there appeared to be a consensus on the board to do more for the sheriff and said the money needed to be found.
Commissioner Leo Kelly raised the point of increasing the tax rate by a penny because it would generate about $287,000 and that would eliminate the squeeze on other parts of the budget.
As to the jail, it was stated that $90,000 would fund two more positions.
All present commissioners, and all but one was present, agreed and directed County Manager Jordan McMillan to find the necessary $250,000. It may come from the general fund, a tax increase, other cuts and by finding other priorities and making cuts.
Commissioner Dan Brummitt said, “The board has made the Vance County Sheriff’s Office and jail a priority.” He said it was in the best interest of public safety and for the county to move forward.
Commissioner Gordon Wilder said, “We have a new sheriff and we want to support him.”
As to the other public safety concern, the much ballhooed fire protection plans, the next public opportunity to hear about that comes Tuesday, May 28th. In a press release, the Commission board has announced that the location of the public safety committee meeting on the 28th has been changed to the Perry Library’s Farm Bureau room (205 Breckenridge Street). The time is 6 p.m.
The fire coverage discussion at this time is centered around the proposed 2.3 cents increase in the fire tax rate, how the fire tax monies are used, the equitable distribution of funds to the volunteer departments, the provision for two paid positions in each volunteer department funded by the county, except at Epsom and Drewry who get one paid firefighter, and the additional debate about the future of the Vance County Fire Department and, stillmore, the future of the Vance County Rescue Squad.
There are more questions than answers and the commissioners appear to be stuck in the details without actually having fully decided if broader, more full scale changes are needed.