Spencer officers can take cars 15 miles to home

Published 6:27 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct information about the town’s take-home police vehicle policy.

By Rebecca Rider

For the Salisbury Post

SPENCER — The town’s police officers can now drive their patrol cars farther to their homes without having to pay to do so.

The Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday evening to extend the range officers can drive their police vehicles home without paying the town for mileage from 5 to 15 miles. And they reduced the rate they’ll pay to go beyond that distance from 57.5 cents per mile to 30 cents per mile.

The change was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Gobbel and Alderman Mike Boone opposing.

Police Chief Michael James requested the adjustment to the police department’s vehicle take-home policy. Currently, officers are allowed to drive their vehicles home at no charge if they live within 5 miles of the city limits; for any distance beyond that, they must pay an IRS rate of 57.5 cents per mile.

James requested the covered distance be changed to 15 miles, that the mileage rating for going beyond that be changed to the N.C. Motor Vehicle Fleet Rate of 30 cents per mile, and that officers be allowed to park their vehicles in pre-approved and secure locations. James said he was concerned with improving workplace morale and adding incentives to reduce officer turnover.

The board took a 15-minute recess to determine the locations of officers’ residences. They found that one officer lives within the town limits, five live within Rowan County, and seven live outside the county.

Alderman Jeff Morris made a motion to increase the covered vehicle take-home mileage to 15 miles from the police department to the officer’s home and to change the rate for distances over 15 miles to the N.C. Motor Vehicle Fleet Rate.

In other business, the board:

• Unanimously agreed to rezone a residence on Salisbury Avenue from zone R-6 to a Highway Business, which would allow the current owner to build a privacy fence and would allow additional uses for the lot if the current resident decides to vacate.

• Discussed strategies for bringing a bank to Spencer to fill the vacancy left by SunTrust.

• Heard from residents Dan and Jatana Patterson, who expressed concern about poor maintenance of road shoulders, medians and public areas, citing poor drainage, deep leaf litter, low visibility street signage, and grass not mowed. The issues are not conducive to attracting new business, they said, and reflect poorly on the town.

The Pattersons encouraged board members to keep an eye out for these places and requested that they enforce codes and communicate proper procedures to the appropriate parties.

• Unanimously agreed to appoint Robert Kent Smith to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board.

• Approved a lien on a Fifth Street property in order to recover charges for abatement of code violations.

• Recognized the service of Reid Walters, who resigned from his position as alderman, and recognized Cody Carter, a first grade student at North Rowan Elementary.

• Chose to disregard a request to sign a letter to the president asking to push back EPA ozone regulations.

The next Spencer town board meeting will be held Oct. 13 at the municipal building on South Salisbury Avenue.