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CPD gets $130,000 grant for drug officer

Posted: July 26, 2018 3:36 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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At the end of Tuesday’s Camden City Council meeting, City Manager Mel Pearson announced that the Camden Police Department will receive a one-year $130,000 Judge Advocate General (JAG) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to hire and equip a drug officer.

“We were notified yesterday (Monday) that we were awarded the grant,” Pearson said. “It includes (a) vehicle and other equipment.”

He said the cost to the city is a 10 percent, or $13,000, match, with the grant covering the other $117,000.
According to CPD Lt. Penny Lloyd, the grant will not only cover the officer’s salary, benefits and vehicle, but their uniform and other clothing, equipment, office supplies and even a computer.

“The department consistently investigates crimes of all types,” Lloyd said in an email. “This includes a mixed set of initiatives, which are both proactive/preventative and reactive. However, we have found that much of our criminal activity does link back to drug use. This, coupled with the rise of opioid use, call for more targeted measures.”

Lloyd said the CPD’s methodology to combat this is two-fold. One, the department recently had Community Oriented Policing Officer Karen DeVors certified as a certified D.A.R.E. officer to work with the city’s youth. Second, the CPD applied for and received the JAG grant for a drug investigator to work both in the city and to liaison with other, surrounding agencies.

“The JAG position will run from July of this year through June 30, 2019, and has specific quarterly reporting requirements that will ensure we are actively working toward our goals,” Lloyd said.

Those goals are:

• meeting the illegal drug trade head-on by increasing the CPD’s proactive efforts;

• eliminating or minimizing illegal drug use in the city of Camden; and

• further educating citizens on illegal drug use and drug trends.

“We have already applied for the second year (and) we think we’ll be eligible for three years,” Pearson said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Going underground

Also as part of his report to council, Pearson had City Public Works Director Tom Couch present an update on undergrounding city utilities as well as AT&T and TruVista cables in different parts of Camden. Pearson said it has been very difficult to get either company to commit to hard completion dates.

Handing up a chart to council members, Couch said the city has 100 percent completed its own undergrounding in the Kendall Mill Village (May 2017); an area between the village and Lyttleton Street referred to as “Project Blackhawk” (May 2018) and along Fair, Lyttleton and Walnut streets (Oct. 2017, Jan. 2017 and Sept. 2017, respectively). In addition, the city is 60 percent complete on undergrounding efforts along Mill Street, with completion estimated for December, and 30 percent complete along Campbell Street, with completion estimated for January 2019.

A future project, in the Kirkwood area, is estimated to be completed in May 2020.

On the AT&T and TruVista sides of the equation, the only underground project the two telephone/cable companies have 100 percent completed was in the Kendall Mill Village, with TruVista having completed its work on Monday, Couch said.
“We’ll start taking down those poles tomorrow,” Couch said, referring to Wednesday.

The two companies’ undergrounding projects along Lyttleton Street are not expected to be completed until October, for AT&T (90 percent complete), and Jan. 2019, for TruVista (80 percent complete). Beyond that, TruVista is 60 percent complete for undergrounding of its cables along Fair Street, with estimated completion in Jan. 2019.

Otherwise, neither company has started any of its remaining undergrounding projects. Couch did say that AT&T has Fair and Walnut streets “under design” for January 2019, and Mill Street is “under design” for Dec. 2019. Couch estimates AT&T’s work in the “Project Blackhawk” area could be completed by December 2019, and its undergrounding of Campbell Street and the Kirkwood area could be done by July 2020 and July 2021, respectively.

Of TruVista’s remaining undergrounding, the company has indicated it can complete Walnut Street by Jan. 2019, although it has not begun work there. Couch estimates TruVista could complete the “Project Blackhawk” and Mill Street by Dec. 2019, Campbell Street by July 2020, and the Kirkwood area by July 2021.

“Like Mel said, they have not provided any dates for those, just that they’re getting ready to start some of them,” Couch said. “They’ve been slow, as you all know, for quite a while. They haven’t sped up here recently.”

Pearson explained there are no contracts obligating either company to assist the city by specific deadlines.

Councilman Jeffrey Graham noted that when the companies lagged behind estimates for previous work, it was customers’ complaints that seemed to get them to speed up the work and suggested that tactic be employed again.

Answering a question from Drakeford, Couch explained that the reason even the city’s portion of the Kirkwood project would not be done until May 2020 is because water and sewer rehabilitation for that area is just now out for bid. Undergrounding power lines would be done afterward, followed by repaving, he said.

Couch also said the city is considering a similar project along sections of Broad Street that would likely be done in phases, possibly three of them, and said the effort would likely include side streets not included in the other projects.

Other business

Former Councilman Willard Polk spoke during public forum near the beginning of the meeting. Among his topics: public safety, specifically concerning speeding on Broad Street between Dusty Bend and downtown Camden.

“That has become an, almost, unlimited speed roadway,” Polk said. “A couple of Saturday’s ago, a neighbor’s dog was run over, killed, and the cretin who struck the dog did not even have the responsibility to stop. It was left up to people who came behind him. Recently, my wife tried to corral a couple of dogs that were running loose in the neighborhood, she was assisted by neighbors … as people were popping Hobkirk Hill like a ski slope.”

Polk said he has tracked vehicles traveling in excess of 50 mph on Broad Street and gotten on the phone with dispatchers in an attempt to have drivers apprehended. In Dusty Bend itself, north of the railroad tracks, the speed limit is 40 mph. Between the railroad tracks and Walnut Street, the speed limit is 35 mph and then reduced to 25 mph until near the Robert Mills Courthouse.

“This is a matter of life and death and as we have more and more construction in this town, the frustration level of drivers increases. We have more and more traffic on these roads, and I think we need to take very affirmative steps to calm the situation down,” Polk said.

He said if that means bringing in additional enforcement from outside the city to perform “random calming” efforts along the city’s major roadways, he suggested council entertain that idea.

Polk also asked the city to be sure to enforce its political sign ordinance, saying he is still seeing signs around time in places and at times when they should no longer be installed. Polk -- who also previously served as member and chair of the city’s parks and trees commission -- said he is concerned that at least some parks are beginning to show signs of overgrowth as well as invasive plants and weeds.

If nothing is done, he said, then “within five to 10 years, we’re going to be back in the same situation we were in when I took over as chair of the parks and streets commission.”

Polk suggested the city hire a professional horticulturalist to work with Urban Forester Liz Gilland.

“We seem to be adding more and more greenspace, which requires additional effort with limited manpower and limited budget,” he said, suggesting it should become a priority for council.

Also Tuesday, members of Camden’s American Legion Post No. 17 presented a plaque of appreciation to Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford and council for the city’s support of bringing The Wall That Heals to Camden in May.

“It was amazing,” Drakeford said of the exhibit. “I had so many people tell me it was a wall of healing.”

Council also unanimously approved a Leader’s Legacy bench in honor of Mary Sue Truesdale.

According to Drakeford, Truesdale was often referred to as the “Mayor of Kirkwood,” due to her leadership in that community. She worked on the parks and trees commission when it was known as Parks & Streets. Truesdale also served as treasurer of the Kirkwood Community Progressive Organization, volunteered at voting polls, was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and a member of Sanders Creek Baptist Church for 60 years in various capacities.

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