Holt column: Sheriff’s figures for Indian Land raise parity issue

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Guest columnist Jerry Holt, a former VTIL member, developed its proposed budget.

Today’s (Nov. 29) front-page article on law-enforcement costs for an incorporated Indian Land highlights a significant discrepancy in charges for similar services throughout the county.
Until this year, the sheriff’s office provided law enforcement services for the incorporated area of Heath Springs.When the cost for those services increased from $23,500 to $38,500 earlier this year, Heath Springs chose not to renew the contract.  Presumably, they still receive some level of coverage from the sheriff because they are still part of Lancaster County.
The town of Kershaw, one of the other incorporated areas in the county, still has its contract with the sheriff to provide exclusive coverage. According to the 2018 county budget document, the charge for that coverage is $549,330 for eight officers. Presumably, these officers are not on foot patrol, so that cost covers their use of patrol cars and equipment.
At a recent presentation to the Indian Land Action Council, Sheriff Barry Faile quoted a fee of $2.9 million for personnel, plus an additional up-front cost of $793,500 for equipment and vehicles.
Let’s look at how those costs compare. Heath Springs would have gotten one officer for $38,500. Kershaw gets eight officers at a cost of $68,666 apiece. And Indian Land would get 35 officers and two administrative staffers for $99,824 apiece.
Do you see some disparity with these charges? As the sheriff was quoted as saying: “What you do for one, you got to do for the other.” But wouldn’t you think you would do it for similar costs?
The sheriff already has about 20 officers assigned to Indian Land. If Indian Land were to incorporate, and the sheriff did not get the contract for law enforcement services there, he would have 20 unemployed officers and 20 unused patrol cars, so he has an incentive to provide services at a reasonable cost.
However, here is something he did not address in his presentation.
Nearly all the growth in Indian Land has been because of new housing developments, or subdivisions, that have development agreements, which are essentially contracts between the county and the developer in which each party obligated itself to fulfill certain terms.
Virtually every one of these agreements contains the following commitment from the county: “The County shall provide law enforcement protection services to the Property on the same basis as is provided to other residents and businesses within the County.” Some of the agreements also include the following language: “The Parties agree that this Agreement remains in effect if the Property is, in whole or in part, included in a newly-incorporated municipality or is annexed into a municipality.”
Sheriff Faile and his department provide professional and excellent coverage for Indian Land, as well as the rest of the county. But it would appear that the proclaimed costs for providing service to an incorporated Indian Land are completely out of line, especially since the county has already obligated the department to continue to provide law-enforcement services even if Indian Land becomes incorporated.