DOBSON — While school funding dominated discussion at the final budget work session, other important matters were before the Surry County Board of Commissioners Thursday evening.
Security at the courthouse was an item which had gone unfunded in County Manager Chris Knopf’s recommended budget.
Commissioners opted to fund Sheriff Graham Atkinson’s request, which is the second step to securing the courthouse, according to county staff. A new entry system has already been installed for courthouse employees, attorneys and others who frequent the building.
“The priority is to get the people there,” explained Assistant County Manager Sandy Snow after commissioners raised concerns regarding any equipment needed.
Snow explained the cost associated with adding two deputies to Atkinson’s force for courthouse security is about a $90,000 expenditure.
“This isn’t a complete picture,” remarked Commissioner Larry Phillips. “There will be some big-ticket equipment purchases down the road.”
Commissioners opted to fund the two officers, though Snow raised a concern regarding how the public might view the move, after commissioners opted to eliminate line item funding for two school resource officers included in Knopf’s recommended budget.
”Will there be a perception we took two SROs (school resource officers) to fund courthouse security?” asked Snow.
Commissioners also opted to shell out funding to help the town of Elkin fund the construction of a Heritage Arts and Trails Center which will house the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, a visitor center and other entities.
The board will split its $96,000 contribution for the project over two fiscal years.
Additional funds went to Pilot Mountain for a project to overhaul a portion of the Pilot Center. That will be a $30,000 expenditure.
County staff members “found” an unused $700,000 in an old capital project fund. The board instructed Knopf to use $300,000 of the money to balance the budget. With the addition of those dollars, the amended budget will come in below the dollar amount of Knopf’s recommended budget.
While work was complete and all commissioners had seemingly agreed to amended provisions for next year’s budget, the night was not over.
Atkinson requested to use about $50,000 left over in various line items in his department’s budget to purchase two new police cruisers and a rescue phone for use in hostage situations. Commissioners approved the request.
The sheriff also had about $200,000 left over in money earmarked for salaries in the current fiscal year. Knopf noted the discrepancy from what was budgeted is due to positions remaining unfilled for various periods of time in the department, a change in the county’s healthcare coverage and other factors.
Atkinson asked commissioners for authorization to use the funds for more cruisers. Sheriff’s Lt. Danny Griffith said it would pay for six or more new cruisers.
Atkinson is also getting six new cruisers in the upcoming budget, if commissioners follow Knopf’s recommended budget.
The board voted 4-1 with Commissioner Larry Johnson dissenting. Johnson tied the matter to school resource officers in the next budget year.
“If he will agree to use half of this to fund two school resource officers, I’ll vote for it,” remarked Johnson before casting the lone vote against the proposal.
Monday evening the board of commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. at the government center at 118 Hamby Road in Dobson. A public hearing on the budget will be held.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.