By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — The Groveton City Council intends to seek help from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office for police work in light of its own department being temporarily unstaffed.
At its regular meeting on Jan. 22, council members gave their blessing for Mayor Ralph Bennett to approach the county to discuss the possibility of a contract.
Bennett said the idea was born after the city could not find qualified applicants to fill the open chief and officer positions.
The former officers were dismissed on Oct. 30 by Bennett.
The plan is to pay $150,000 a year for two deputies’ salaries and benefits, while the county would furnish vehicle and fuel. The annual budget for the Groveton Police Department is just under $250,000, and Bennett said the money that is saved, about $65,000-$70,000 a year, will be used to improve the department and its equipment.
“It is still our intention to have our own department; we’re not disbanding it, but we need new vehicles, other equipment,” he said. “One vehicle burned up in the parade, and we’re down to one. We don’t have the tax base that the county has, so this will give us time to upgrade.”
The contract will run for two years, and the funds paid will allow the Sheriff’s Office to put on two additional deputies who will cover an area within a 5-mile radius of Groveton. All tickets will come to Groveton Municipal Court, and the city will amend ordinances to allow the deputies to enforce nuisance ordinances, such as property cleanup.
“We want to make sure our residents are taken care of,” Bennett said. “We will have 24/7 police coverage; however, this is not a permanent solution. It helps us and it helps the county, gives us protection, and gives them two additional officers for their department.”
In other business, the council:
•discussed treatment of wastewater lagoons, but took no action and will study the matter further;
•discussed possible grants with Communities Unlimited;
•proclaimed February as Black History Month;
•approved an agreement for an election to be held in May. Three council members — Joe Don Kennedy, Billy Jones and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Casper, are up for election; and
•approved a $8,702.46 payment to Inframark for water and wastewater services.