Martin: Sheriff’s contract saves Ridgeway $70K a year

RIDGEWAY – After voting on Aug. 9 to contract with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s office for law enforcement services for the Town of Ridgeway and on Aug. 11 to defund the Ridgeway Police Department, Town Councilman Dan Martin reported that the change would save the Town approximately $70,000 annually.

“The fact is, we spent $108K on our police department last year. That’s what it cost after deducting the revenue the town took in for traffic tickets,” Martin said. “What we are proposing will be the same or better coverage and will cost us about 39,000 a year.”

Martin said the town would be getting more police coverage by contracting with the Sheriff’s Department than it had funding its own police department.

“According to our chief’s own records, he patrolled the town six hours and fifteen minutes per day, on an average of five days a week,” Martin said. Because Culp scheduled longer hours for himself on some of the days, he was on duty only four days during some weeks, Martin explained.

Martin said that on days/weeks when Culp was away on vacation or training sessions, the town had coverage only from the Sheriff’s department but had no officer on duty within the town.

“We won’t have this with a contract officer,” Martin said. He said the town would have an off-duty Fairfield County Sheriff’s deputy on duty in the town six hours a day, five days a week every week. He said the Sheriff’s department would continue to provide round-the-clock law enforcement for the town the other 18 hours just as it does now. The on-duty officer would be paid $25 per hour.

“What we’re doing is equal or better than we have right now,” Martin said. “These off-duty police officers are highly trained, professional men and women who are more than adequately prepared to protect us. No one on this council would allow this town to go unprotected,” Martin said.

Jones added that small towns are more and more abandoning their police departments for contracted security from county sheriff departments.

“Blythewood contracts with Richland County, Lugoff with Kershaw County, Jenkinsville with Fairfield County,” Jones said.

Martin provided The Voice with a list of the some of the biggest expenses the Town had last year in funding its own police department.

Culp’s total salary expenses – $49K+; office expenses, supplies, equipment, legal and professional – $4,073; utilities – $7,248; fuel and maintenance for two patrol cars – $6,081 and insurance – $10,778. The town recently purchased a new Tahoe for Culp at a cost of approximately $34,000 and there were other miscellaneous expenses.

There was also the cost of $4,000 for the town to provide court and a judge that are required when the town has a police department.

“We could use this money in better ways, to provide more and better services to our citizens,” Martin said.

But Councilman Donald Prioleau disagreed.

“We aren’t putting the safety of our citizens first,” Prioleau countered. “Chief Culp is a top police officer that raised policing to a professional level and his criminal justice experience is helping to hold down crime. We make three to four times what our foreparents made and they had a police department and we’re getting rid of our police department with the salaries we make today. Let the citizens advise council what they want for safety,” Prioleau insisted. “We’re on the wrong track.”

“You say we have a great officer. That’s okay,” Martin said. “But what you’re saying is that our officer is better than the Fairfield County Sheriff’s officers. That they cannot do as good a job as our officer.

“That’s not true.”

Martin said the contract off-duty officer(s) who serve the town will patrol a mixture of daytime and nighttime hours.

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