Up & Coming Weekly

May 10, 2016

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 11 of 28

MAY 11-17, 2016 UCW 11 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS Interim Fayetteville City Manager Doug Hewett introduced the public to his budget proposal for the fiscal year, which begins July 1. He went over the budget in somewhat greater detail with City Council members last week. He and his senior management team met with councilmen in small groups of two and three, something former manager Ted Voorhees started last year. The intimate sessions give Hewett an opportunity to feel out each council member without them be- ing influenced by others. Most city employees will get what's called a mid-point two-percent merit pay raise. The city will share an increase in healthcare costs with employees. Public safety continues to be one of Council's top priorities in FY17. A fire department step pay plan, which was initiated this fis- cal year, will remain in effect. The police department has had a step plan in place for several years. Hewett is proposing education incentive bonuses for firefight- ers. The education incentive will benefit rank-and-file firefighters through the rank of lieutenant. "We must groom fire department leaders of tomorrow now," Fire Chief Ben Major told Up & Coming Weekly. Hewett's plan will reward firemen with associate degrees with an extra $1,500 annually. Those with baccalaureate degrees would receive an additional $3,000. "My concern is what to do about those above the rank of lieutenant," said Councilman Bill Crisp. "Currently they receive only what's appropriated in the annual overall pay plan." Crisp has said he intends to champion the cause of firefighters who until last year were left out of public safety pay increases. "We need a happy fire department," added Crisp. With the new fiscal year, the city will be- gin building an escrow account to support payment of parks and recreation municipal bond sales. Those bonds will be sold over a seven-year period to build $35 million dollars in new and refurbished facilities. In March voters approved a tax increase of $.0135 per $100 of assessed property valu- ation. Those improvements won't begin for at least another year yet. Council is just beginning the process of establishing a de- tailed financial plan to prioritize projects. Construction of half a dozen splash pads will likely be among the first projects. In his budget message, Hewett proposes an operating budget of nearly $226 million across all funds except for the city-owned but independently operated Public Works Commission. The PWC budget will be pre- sented to Council separately. The new ad valorem property tax rate will be $0.4995 which includes the parks bond referendum increase. "Our desire in achieving your goals is to keep our customers — our residents — in mind throughout the entire process, knowing that we serve them," said Hewett. City Firefighters Benefit in Budget by JEFF THOMPSON JEFF THOMPSON, Senior News Reporter. COMMENTS? news@upandcomingweekly. com. 910.484.6200. Hewett's plan will reward firemen with associate degrees with an extra $1,500 annually. Those with baccalaureate degrees would receive an additional $3,000. A recent sobriety checkpoint in Fayetteville confirmed a pattern; drunk driving is down. "I'm thrilled to death that the checkpoints don't result in more arrests than they do. That's great news," said Fayetteville Po- lice Chief Harold Medlock. Of 155 charges brought against violators during the lat- est checkpoint, only seven were for DWI. Police roadblocks are staged regularly in Fayetteville and across North Carolina to enforce the "Booze It & Lose It" anti-drunk driving campaign. "It's becoming a stigma for people to drive drunk," Medlock added. With every gain, there's a loss: The check- points are resulting in dozens of drivers being cited for driving without a license or proper vehicle registration. Medlock says his officers use discretion in deciding whether to issue warning tickets or citations when motorists are caught without licenses. He calls it "compassionate law en- forcement" for officers to take personal circumstances into account before ticketing them. In the recent checkpoint on Robeson Street at Weiss Avenue late on a Friday night, cops cited 47 drivers for not having licenses or cur- rent motor vehicle registrations. Some others received warning tickets but those numbers were not available. Another 49 drivers were arrested for driving while their licenses were revoked. What about them? "Personally I think all those folks ought to go to jail," Medlock said. But again he has compassion for some. "I'm not a bleed- ing heart liberal, but you have to take into account a person working six days a week trying to feed a family, who misses his court date and now has an extra burden." That's a time when an officer takes circumstances into account before writing a ticket. Some law enforcement officials believe it would be a deterrent if cars could be impound- ed for driving without a license and other major traffic violations. "There are only a few specific laws that allow us to impound vehicles," said Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker, such as a driver who is ap- prehended after fleeing from police. That's a felony — or, when a driver is found impaired within 30 days of a DWI license suspension." Motorists whose cars have been impounded can appeal the decision before the Clerk of Court, who determines the disposition, he added. There apparently is no mood in Raleigh to strengthen impound laws. Changing the law to allow impounding "would be too strict a penalty," said Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), Chairman of the Senate Transpor- tation Committee. "If I make an arrest for driving with a revoked license I have the authority to have the car towed," Chief Medlock clarified. But towing is not impounding. Medlock says it is nonetheless a severe penalty when towing and storage fees are taken into account. Among other charges filed during the Robeson Street checkpoint were 26 various other traffic violations, five for open alcohol containers, five in- spection violations, seven misdemeanor drug violations, three felony drug arrests and a handful of other charges. Also, 13 people with active 'wanted' warrants were taken into custody. All in all, a successful operation. It in- volved 76 officers of local police departments and the State Highway Patrol. Drunk Driving Down by JEFF THOMPSON Drunk driving arrests are down in Fayetteville.

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