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County commissioners to consider scholarship program for sheriff’s deputies

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Sheriff’s deputies could receive a bachelor’s degree for free under a program up for consideration during Monday’s county commissioner’s meeting.

The program would provide a scholarship for Rowan County sheriff’s deputies with an associate’s degree to complete requirements for a bachelor’s degree at Livingstone College. Specifically, sheriff’s deputies would be able to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice. As part of the program, Livingstone would discount its hourly tuition rate from $500 to $250. Rowan County would pay the discounted tuition rate.

The program has been named Law Enforcement Academic Development Scholarship.

County Commissioner Craig Pierce said Livingstone College has already agreed to the scholarship program. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will discuss, and potentially approve, the program during its 3 p.m. meeting at the county administration building — 131 West Innes St.

If approved, the scholarship program would formally start on July 1 — the beginning of Rowan County’s budget year.

Pierce, who’s scheduled to present the proposal to the board, said he hopes the program would help with employee retention at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. There’s another goal, too.

“We were looking at way to help the black community feel more comfortable with speaking to law enforcement, and what better way to have them sit right there in the classroom,” Pierce said.

Rowan County would earmark $50,000 per year of a recently approved sales tax on services such as car repairs for tuition-related costs. Sheriff Kevin Auten would decide which officers could participate in the scholarship program.

For now, officers without an associate’s degree would be unable to participate in the program and receive a degree from Livingstone College.

Pierce said the program started after a conversation with former Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Scott Teamer. Pierce said Teamer had just graduated from Livingstone College while taking night and weekend classes when he mentioned the idea.

In other business on Monday’s agenda:

• County commissioners will consider adding two detectives and four master deputies to the sheriff’s office.

If commissioners approve the request, the six deputies would form a new “Crime Reduction Unit.” The request comes as community members debate the best methods to combat crime in Salisbury and Rowan County. In a letter to county commissioners and County Manager Aaron Church, Auten proposed the new deputies as a method to combat crime.

I have been approached by several of you asking what can be done to combat this issue and improve the safety of our community,” Auten wrote. “I believe this issue, (a spike in violent crime), has been caused by multiple factors, some of which are directly related to law enforcement while others are social issues. I am proposing my idea as a method to have a more immediate effect on crime.”

Auten wrote that he hopes other programs will be created as more long-term solutions.

Auten said he’s particularly concerned about increases in the trafficking, sale and use of drugs in Rowan County. The new team of deputies would work closely with detectives to find hot spots for crime-related to the drug trade.

If approved, the new sheriff’s deputies would require a $535,605 increase in expenditures, which includes everything from salaries to vehicles. Part of the increase in expenditures would come from a sales tax initially passed to pay for a jail annex and telecommunications upgrades. The remainder would be paid for through the county’s unrestricted fund balance, which partially functions as a savings account.

• County commissioners will receive a presentation from the Rowan-Salisbury School System about a lease with Apple for laptops and iPads.

The total cost of the lease is $14.66 million. After ample discussion at the most recent Rowan-Salisbury school board meeting, the Apple lease was approved. County commissioners will also need to approve the lease.

The school system currently has a lease with Apple that started in 2014. That lease had a total cost of $11.11 million.

The school system’s stock of Apple devices could be used as a $3 million down payment on the lease.

• Commissioners will consider approving contracts for roofing repairs at the Health Department and Rowan County Jail.

Combined, the cost of both contracts is pegged at $1.38 million. County staff has recommended Interstate Roofing Company Inc., which is based in Charlotte.

The contracts appear on commissioners’ consent agenda.

• Commissioners will consider approving a fee schedule for spay and neuter services at the Rowan County Animal Shelter.

For spays and neuters, the fee schedule is as follows: $40 for male cats, $60 for female cats, $50 for male dogs, $60 for female dogs under 40 pounds and $70 for female dogs over 40 pounds. For cat combination tests, the fee would be $20. For a health certificate, the fee would be $20.

The fee schedule appears on commissioners’ consent agenda. It comes as the county prepares to start in-house spay and neuter services instead of providing a voucher for adopters to seek services at a private clinic.

The fee schedule also appears on commissioners’ consent agenda.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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