Community officers proving their worth in Bermuda Run

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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By Jim Buice

Enterprise Record

BERMUDA RUN – Five years ago when the town council considered adding a community policing officer through an agreement with the Davie County Sheriff’s Department, council member John Guglielmi made a joke about expecting to see Barney Fife on patrol.

Fast forward to today – after that board ultimately gave approval in 2017 by a slim 3-2 margin to provide one officer for 40 hours per week – when the council this time agreed unanimously to a five-year renewal extension.

The estimated cost for fiscal year 2022-23 is $93,337, which includes salary/benefits, vehicle, equipment and gas, and includes a 2 percent increase each year of the contract. The cost for the first year of the initial deal was $76,220 for fiscal year 2017-18.

“The proposal has a little bit of an increase with the majority related to an increase in vehicle cost and an increase in salaries and benefits,” said Sheriff JD Hartman, who gave a brief presentation at last week’s council meeting. “I think we’ve had a very successful five years. You’ve had three different community officers. We went through a whole thing that nobody has been through called COVID.”

Hartman provided some statistics from 2022 through Nov. 7, stating there had been 1,620 CAD (computer-aided dispatch) activities that included 164 traffic stops and 182 calls related to mental commitments at the hospital.

“Over the last five years of the contract, the hospital is the top place we answer calls at,” he said. “Of the 1,620 CAD activities, 192 reports are all that we’ve taken as far as criminal reports. Larcenies always seem to be the top report we take in Bermuda Run and then fraud.”

Hartman added he computed “something a little different as far as deputies spending time inside the city limits for the totality of hours spent here so far this year with 13,999 hours, which is the equivalent of 6½ full-time deputies spending time in your city.”

Mayor Rick Cross said: “That’s a lot of coverage. Sheriff Hartman, we thank you so much for all you and your staff do for our community and our county.”

Council members echoed those comments with a vote of confidence and support for the community officer program. That’s in stark contrast to five years ago when it barely passed with Guglielmi and council member Ed Coley opposed, saying they didn’t see the value of the position.

“Golf carts and kids driving golf carts is a big part of what drove this discussion, and the speed,” Coley said at the time. “Even with this community officer, I don’t think we’ll be able to do anything about that.”

Guglielmi added, “What are we trying to protect ourselves from? I’ve never had anyone tell me they feel threatened in Bermuda Run. I’m a little concerned with what we’re trying to establish.”

At that time, Cross was in his first year as a council member along with Mike Ernst. Jerry West joined them in support for the position – which goes above and beyond what the county offers in terms of coverage.

“We need to make sure we are thinking about how to provide the best safety and security for our people,” Cross said at the time. “The community police officer has to get to know the people in the town. This is not just a sheriff’s deputy that drives around. They have to engage people and get to know the residents and the businesses.”

Ernst concurred, saying: “If we do this agreement, we’re not going to eliminate all the golf carts issues or speeding issues. When you start seeing a presence of a law enforcement officer, your behavior changes. We have heard a lot of talk from citizens that have concerns about security. We represent them, not ourselves.”

Also in last Tuesday night’s meeting, Town Manager Andrew Meadwell gave an update on the NCDOT’s public meeting showing alternatives for the proposed new interchange over I-40 project at Baltimore Road on Nov. 3.

Meadwell said that 123 people attended the meeting with most of the comments being positive for what he called “a project of great importance in eastern Davie County and Bermuda Run” and that it was important for the town to continue to advocate for it.

In other Bermuda Run news:

• In the other action item on the agenda, the council approved an agreement involving receiving grant funding for infrastructure improvements to assist the town in removing its wastewater discharge from the Yadkin River and transferring it to the Eastern Davie County Regional Wastewater System by upgrading the Juniper Pump Station and removing the Bermuda Run Wastewater Treatment Plant.

• Kelly Funderburk, Davie County Register of Deeds, gave a presentation in the meeting on the “Thank a Vet” program for local service members and encouraging veterans to record their DD-214 military discharge form – free of charge – at the Register of Deeds Office, where they will get a photo discount card that entitles them to discounts and freebies at participating county businesses.

• Meadwell said that the long-awaited bridge coming from North Dakota for the Blue Heron Trail “has finally made it and been placed after a couple of attempts to set it. So we are close to having this project complete.” Cross added that the first phase of the trail being “open” sometime in January means that the trail is paved, fully lighted, fully seeded with grass growing and crosswalks marked, and that the town is looking at further beneficial enhancements, including landscaping.

• Meadwell also followed up on the E-911 addressing topic, which headed the conversation in the October meeting. He said that along with reviewing the ordinance, he is creating an information sheet to get folks to post the numbers on houses of residences and businesses.

• Cross said that he happened to run into the operator of the Chick-fil-A in Clemmons, who will also have the Chick-fil-A in Bermuda Run and learned that work on the restaurant in the Lowes Shopping Center on NC 801 will start in December with an opening date planned for May 1.