Almost two years ago, Dearing residents had to start paying for trash collection. Last week, their money got them their own law enforcement officer.
Although trash collection service always had been free before March 2008, a $12 fee was approved by town council members and took effect later that summer. Mayor Sean Kelley said the plan was to keep the city from "going in the hole" with expenses and promised to use the money to benefit the town. His dream was to hire a part-time law enforcement officer.
Instead, the old McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Sub-Station building was brought back to life last week and staffed with an officer from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day. And the garbage fees are assisting in footing the bill.
Major Ronnie Williamson of the sheriff's department said the department received funds from the county to hire more officers in the past year. As a result, the department has divided the county into zone beats and assigned an officer to patrol each beat. Maj. Williamson said the sheriff's department would provide the officer for the substation if the Town of Dearing would pay for the utilities of running the building.
"So, instead of $12,000 or more, we can get away with it for about $200 a month. So, I didn't even have to think about that," Mayor Kelley said.
Along with utilities, the town is providing Internet service so officers can work on their reports without driving to the law enforcement center. Maj. Williamson said at least one officer will use the substation, and it could often be used by two officers.
"It's going to help us, too," Maj. Williamson said at the Town Council meeting Monday night. "It will save on our gas, so it's a win-win situation."
Maj. Williamson said the object of having the substation in Dearing is to keep officers on "that side of the county, cutting down on response time and to be seen a lot more."
Town council members have already noticed the increased visibility.
"I do see the results," Councilman Bobby Aldred said. "I see blue lights flashing quite a bit, now."
"I see my foot coming off the gas pedal," Councilman Allen Axon quipped. "And I see other traffic slowing down, too."
Although the Internet service is ready, Maj. Williamson said computers will be delivered soon. The building is being cleaned up, too. Old shrubs have been removed and bathroom fixtures are being replaced. Maj. Williamson said inmates in the work force at the jail will replace the old roof on the substation.
"We think the world of Dearing," Maj. Williamson said. "Dearing is growing and you have a good quality of life here. And we think it needs protecting."