Law Enforcement Officers Laud Cooperation Of Citizens In Crisis – April 22

By Dave Russell, The Sylva Herald

Local law enforcement isn’t immune from the impact of COVID-19, taking a lead role in enforcing the rules and regulations.

“It’s a very difficult and challenging time that we’re in right now,” Jackson County Chief Deputy Kim Hooper said. “We have answered some calls from citizens about numerous places where more than 10 people have gathered, or they have some concerns seeing out-of-state license and we have spoken to those people.”

Deputies informed them of the rules the state and local authorities have laid out, he said.

Newcomers to the county are asked to quarantine for 14 days before moving about the county.

“We have received nothing but 100 percent cooperation from the public,” he said. 

The Sheriff’s Office is still fighting crime.

“The department is not shut down,” Hooper said. “If we have to make arrests, we will make arrests.”

The majority of the calls coming in right now are people concerned about out-of-state license plates, he said. 

The department has not had to bust up any parties or talk to any churches about gathering.

“The majority of the churches are following the guidelines that have been set out,” he said. 

The department has conducted one traffic checkpoint.

“What we did last Friday was community outreach, a safety check on N.C. 107 near Lyle Wilson Road,” he said. “That was just a friendly reminder of the recommendations set out by the Department of Public Health, the state and local authorities – stay home, stay safe.”

Deputies at the checkpoint did not check licenses or look inside cars, he said.

Hooper and his colleagues want everyone to be safe, he said.

“Like everybody is saying, from the president on down to local, take advice from these guidelines set out – stay home and stay safe,” he said. “We want to spread the word and encourage people to make an adjustment to their lifestyle until we get this pandemic behind us.”

Sylva Police Chief Chris Hatton is very pleased with the response from the community, also citing 100 percent cooperation. 

“We’ve had some people call in on some situations that we’ve had to go straighten things out, but not as much as the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “We were really busy when they came out with the first wave of what needs to be closed, where you can eat, like outdoor dining or not. Everybody we have talked to who was not doing the right thing, after we talked to them, they were like, ‘OK, I misunderstood.’”

Sylva is Bracing for a Dent in Finances – April 22

By Dave Russell, The Sylva Herald

Sylva’s budget is not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the world. The resulting closure of all but essential businesses is putting a deep dent in the town’s financial future.

“It’s going to reduce sales tax, it’s going to reduce vehicle tax and occupancy taxes,” Sylva town Manager Paige Dowling said. “The revenue that comes in between early March and June is going to be significantly impacted. Looking at the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, we are estimating a decrease of about 20 percent in sales tax.”

The town is looking at appropriating about $190,000 from its fund balance, or rainy day fund, she said. 

The town’s fund balance right now is 80.86 percent of total budget.

“The state’s goal for towns our size is 81 percent,” Dowling said. “If we adopt this balanced budget and with that appropriation of $190,000, the estimated fund balance will be 74.21 percent.”

The 2019-20 budget appropriated $50,000 from the fund balance.

“We’ll also take $91,500 from capital reserves,” she said. “That is the fund set aside for capital purchases, such as equipment. We’re still planning on purchasing two police cars. That’s to keep up with our vehicle replacement schedule, because when we push it out, the years that we have to replace three cars instead of one or two, it’s so difficult on our budget.”

The town board received the balanced draft budget Tuesday evening, with an April 30 budget work session (online via Zoom) slated to review it. Another budget work session is scheduled for May 14.

At a Jan. 23 budget session, town leaders listened to department heads’ pitches and justifications for their requests, and board members threw their own wish lists out for consideration.

“Nothing is definite yet,” Dowling said. “Almost all the wants and needs are not going to be funded, just because this is such an uncertain budget and we do not have the revenue to fund the requests.”

Some items that town leaders talked about that might not see funding include: 

• one or two more police officers.

• additional funding for the Blackrock Creek tract.

• an all-terrain vehicle.

Items still in the draft budget include:

• two police patrol vehicles.

• video surveillance cameras for the Department of Public Works parking area.

• a part-time Main Street manager, though that job is now a contract position instead of a part-time employee.

• a Bridge Park improvement plan, with money coming from the town’s Fisher Creek fund.

• a comprehensive land use plan and zoning ordinance update, required by the state.

“The things that remain in the budget are mainly things that we can pay from other sources, like Fisher Creek or capital reserves,” Dowling said. “Our expenditures have not had an increase, just that we’re projecting a significant revenue loss.”