BY STACIE LETT CAIN
Statesville Police Chief David Addison told City Council members on Monday night that major crime decreased sharply in the city last year.
The number of homicides in the city dropped from 8 in 2020 to 3 in 2021, according to Addison. The number of robberies fell dramatically from 27 in 2020 to just nine in 2021.
“It is an anomaly that I have no explanation for,” he explained. “There is no singular reason for it.”
SPD officers responded to almost 80,000 call for service.
“Part of the reason I believe crime is down is because I believe officers were just about everywhere they needed to be,” he said.
Officers used force in less than 1 percent of all calls. Of the 79,905 calls our officers had in the year 2021, only 24 required use of any force, Addison said.
“That speaks to the men and women of the Statesville Police Department,” the chief said.
Council members direct staff to devise plan to reduce, eliminate solid waste fee
In addition to receiving a report on the latest crime data, council members continued their discussion of the city’s annual solid waste fee, which has divided the council since it was first levied.
“I was opposed to this when it first was introduced and I am opposed to this now,” Councilman C.O. Johnson explained.
The annual solid waste fee of $120 per year for property owners generates $1.1 million dollars in revenue for the Solid Waste Department, which is responsible for trash pickup, recycling and leaf collection in the fall.
Though some council members are interested in eliminating this fee altogether, the large budgetary hole created by eliminating it causes a concern for others.
“This fee is a burden on a lot of people, low income and elderly in particular,” Council member Doris Allison said. “But at this point, if we eliminate this now, we would be doing more harm than good.”
Across the board, council members voiced a preference that city staff find a solution to the problem.
“No decision is being made today,” Council member William Morgan explained. “We need to just direct staff in a direction that we want them to go to research what our options are and bring those options back to us.”
Many options were presented by City Manager Ron Smith, including raising taxes, reallocating funds from street lights and traffic lights from public works to the electric fund to use those funds to offset the fee, as well as incremental elimination of the fee over the course of several years. Some of those options were more feasible than others, but the process creates a further stress on budget preparation by staff.
“Eliminating even $250,000 is going to create pressure for us,” Smith explained. “We are always working under pressure on the budget but this will be over and above and we need support and patience from council as we continue this process.”
But the bottom line for most was the element of fairness.
“We just need to do whatever we do here fairly,” Morgan explained. “I like the idea of doing it incrementally. I can wrap my head around that. We need to start somewhere and I think that is where we need to start.”
The council voted to direct staff to research options for incrementally reducing the amount of the solid wastte fee over a term of years based on the city’s ability to cover the loss of revenue. That information will be presented to council at a later time.
The council also voted to approve a contract for financial advisory services with Davenport Public Finance for the year ending December 31, 2022.
“We are getting an infinite amount of knowledge for half the cost of a staff person,” Morgan explained.
And with the growth being seen by the city, that knowledge is crucial, according to the city manager.
“We have discussed the growth we are seeing now and how we shouldn’t be afraid to hire outside experts to assist us with that growth,” he stated. “I think there is nowhere we see this importance more than with this group.”
The next city council meeting will be March 21,2022 at 7 p.m.