Council discusses safety concerns, sets millage rate hearings: MCSO representatives on hand to address comment from deputy about taking neighborhood back

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By Nick Nunn

Staff Writer

During a meeting on July 15, the Rutledge City Council held a meeting to set the millage rate hearing dates, update citizens on the development of the Fairplay Park, and address questions from “concerned citizens” directed at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

First, the council set dates and times for millage rate hearings. The first will take place at 6:30 p.m. on July 25, and the second will follow at 7 p.m. on July 25, at which time the millage rate will be adopted.

According to the 2013 current tax digest and five-year history of levy, the net M&O millage for Rutledge will remain at 3.734, as it has for the past four years.

Mayor Spencer Knight then addressed the progress of the Fairplay Park, stating that the recent rains have delayed the completion of the tennis court, but that the grass at the softball field is coming along nicely.

Next, two representatives from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Dietrich Roland and Lt. Kenny Stewart, spoke about a recent event in Rutledge, during which a member of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department warned some Rutledge citizens that they should make an effort to take their neighborhood back.

The comment stemmed from a recent incident that involved a minor carrying an air-soft weapon, which the minor had painted black, within the city limits.

Lt. Roland assured the citizens at the meeting that the comment had been exaggerated, and that, because of the misunderstanding, he wasn’t even sure of the meaning that the original statement should have conveyed.

Lt. Roland apologized openly, although he acknowledged, “I don’t know what was said. I wasn’t here.”

Edward Hogan, a citizen that was on the scene of the original incident, stated that he felt that, “it was handled properly,” and, although the issue was dealt with quickly, there is often “a concern for response time.”

Lt. Roland responded to that concern by stating that the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department is only able to have one officer in each of the three zones that make up Morgan County at any given time.

That fact, coupled with the sheer number of calls the Sheriff’s Department takes in any given day, caused some concern, both with citizens in attendance and members of the City Council.

Council member James Bratcher, referring to the newly completed building at the Morgan County High School, expressed his opinion on the felt shortage of officers by saying, “They’re putting all this money in the schools, but we’re not reaping the benefits in other parts of the community.”

Morgan County Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who was in attendance during the City Council meeting, noted the separation of the county’s budget and the budget for the Board of Education, before acknowledging the need for two or more officers per zone, saying “Hopefully, some day we can do that.”

Lt. Stewart then mentioned the possibility of setting up a remote station for sheriff’s deputies in the Rutledge City Hall, so the officers will have a place to do reports while remaining on duty. Lt. Stewart stated that all they would need would be a desktop computer and the software that would enable them to access the Sheriff Department’s network remotely.

Mayor Knight expressed his willingness to comply, saying, “You are more than welcome. You just tell us what you need.”

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