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Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — In an effort to enhance transparency and efficiency, aldermen on Monday allocated $14,400 from the current budget to purchase of 13 body cameras and 13 stun guns for Landis public safety officers.

Public Safety Director Zachary Lechette said promoting trust-based relationships and transparency between the department and the community is among his top priorities.

“One of the biggest developments in recent years to help accomplish this task is the implementation of body-worn camera programs,” Lechette said. “Additionally, the public has become accustomed to police departments having body worn cameras and other less lethal tools. Studies have shown that body worn cameras lower the frequency of force and citizen complaints against officers.”

Town Manager Diane Seaford said Landis would be the first small agency in the county to buy Axon Body Camera 3 and Taser 7 technology. Both devices are used by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Salisbury Police Department.

Lechette said Monday’s action allows $14,400 to be allocated for the rollout of the program using money received from surplus vehicle sales during the current fiscal year. A total of $8,000 would be charged in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, with a cost of $22,000 each year after for the remainder of the contract. That amounts to approximately $140 per officer per month.

Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart asked if activating the stun guns would automatically begin recording on the body camera. Lechette said most interactions with citizens are recorded on body cameras, with the exception of some sensitive discussions with victims and survivors.

Lechette said the five-year contract includes a full warranty, upgrades available halfway through the contract and at the end as well as with training for both devices. Additionally, the contract adds one other instructor for the department’s training. Lechette said there is currently a policy in place for the use of stun guns. The department will soon put into place best practices and policies for body cameras.

Lechette said the stun guns are yellow — not black like the former devices. He said the change guards against the potential stun guns are mistaken for another weapon.

Also at the meeting:

• Aldermen appointed Human Resources Officer and Town Clerk Amber Levi to serve as the interim finance officer. Pam Dubois, who began the role late 2019, is resigning due to a personal crisis. Seaford said Levi wouldn’t take on the full scope of operations, and that appropriate segregation of duties would be ensured.

The town will begin advertising for the finance officer position Wednesday.

Included on Monday’s agenda was a presentation of the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, but aldermen moved to recess Monday’s meeting and reconvene Wednesday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m. for a formal presentation of the budget. A public hearing will be held in June before adoption.

• The board approved electric tariffs for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The residential rate will decrease by 1 cent. Additionally, the proposed Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards charges will increase from 72 cents to 81 cents for renewable resource residential accounts, $3.93 to $4.41 for commercial accounts and from $40.51 to $45.45 for industrial accounts. These fees would be added to the monthly bill for each account. Seaford said those rates are set by Electricities and will not result in a net revenue change for the town.

• Aldermen voted against an offer from Jason Rabon to purchase two parcels on West Taylor Street and one parcel on Dial Street, which are all part of the former D.C. Linn property and zoned R-8 and SFR-2 on the zoning map. Rabon offered $60,000 for the two West Taylor Street properties and $15,000 for the Dial Street property. Rabon’s request was to place four houses on the parcels, but the new zoning map designates the West Taylor Street area as SFR-1, which is why aldermen voted against his offers.

• The board approved a contract with N-Focus to continue providing planning services with staff in the office three days a week. The contract covers Susan Closner as zoning administrator for $50 an hour, Bill Bailey as primary planning professional at $80 an hour, Rick Flowe as planning, zoning and subdivision administrator at $140 an hour and John Ganus as code enforcement officer at $125 an hour. Flowe and Ganus would be utilized on an as-needed basis, while Closner and Bailey would serve eight hours and six hours per week, respectively.

• The board endorsed a certification from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to set the speed limit on Old Beatty Ford Road to 45 miles per hour.

• Board members endorsed a copy of bylaw revisions made by the Rowan Economic Development Commission during its February meeting. Implementation requires the approval of all municipalities in the county. Included is changing the commission’s name to the Rowan Economic Development Council, eliminating county residency for board membership and expanding the board to five people.

• The board approved a contract agreement with Hickory-based Martin Starnes & Associates firm for $19,000 over the next three fiscal years. Monday’s approval was for an audit of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which is due Oct. 31.

• Aldermen approved a contract for $6,320 with CertaPro Painters to repaint 15 uptown light poles and clock tower. Seaford anticipates the work to be complete by the end of May or June.

• Detective Sgt. Shane Safrit, who had been with the Landis Police Department for at least a decade, was recognized with a meritorious service award. Safrit has accepted another job elsewhere and will be leaving the Landis Public Safety Department.

• Landis’ National Night Out was scheduled for Aug. 3, and will take place at the soccer fields of J. Fred Corriher Jr. YMCA, located on Kimball Road.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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