Trustee reallocates money intended for security at offices in Johnson City
By Karen Sells
“There are certain facets of the budget I have to supply, and I have to set priorities,” Trustee Jack Daniels said during the Jan. 8 meeting of the Public Safety Committee regarding the decision to pull his half of the dollars paying for a constable to provide security for county staff working in the offices.
Whether security is needed in the Johnson City offices has been debated among commissioners since the search for a new location began when the county decided to sell the Downtown Centre.
Three months after moving to a supposedly safer location on Marketplace Boulevard in North Johnson City, the commission approved a $24,000 budget amendment from the General Fund during their October 2011 meeting to pay for a constable to provide security.
While many commissioners objected, the repeated justification for security is that the danger is not in the location but rather from the residents who are coming in to pay property taxes and purchase tags. Commissioners in favor of security say many of these citizens are irate, and the all-female staff doesn’t feel safe.
“The commission fully funded the constable for 2012-2013,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said last week, explaining that County Clerk Kathy Storey’s budget only covered half a year. “I went to Rick Gillenwater’s office the week between Christmas and New Year’s and told him there was no money available,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Ford said a recommendation is needed from the officials on whether they want the security. “We don’t need to hash it out every year. You either do or you don’t,” he said.
Storey was the only one to comment. “Is it an absolute necessity? Probably not,” she said.
Commissioner Sam Humphreys asked if there is a certain time of year when a larger amount of money is received.
“The security of the staff is the point,” Commissioner Sam Phillips said, adding Daniels gave his opinion on the need when he pulled the funding.
Eldridge has authorized three panic buttons for the offices, which are being installed by Fleenor Security.
Phillips made a motion to table a decision to reinstate security until results from the use of the panic buttons and response time from law enforcement are received. Humphreys seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.