Police provide security for meeting about cutting their jobs

Two officers provide security outside the Timmonsville Town Council executive session, as a discussion is held that could elimate their jobs.

Police provide security for meeting about cutting their jobs

As Timmonsville Town Council met in executive session Friday morning to talk about the possibility of disbanding the police department to save money, loud voices could be heard coming from the closed door meeting and police had to go in to keep the peace.

Mayor Darrick Jackson says he called the meeting after he got a letter from the town's financial consultant on Thursday saying its finances were in dire straights. He said the needed to find $400,000 to cover overdue bills.

One of the options on the table is to disband the police department. Mayor Jackson says he's talked with officials from the Florence County Sheriff's Office about providing coverage for the town.

In the end, council held off on voting on eliminating the police department until a later time.

The meeting continued in public after the executive session.

Members discussed if the town should immediately pay the SC State Budget and Control Board $28,623.46 for town employee insurance and retirement funds.

A letter from the board's financial services unit says the town hasn't made a payment since February and pressed council to pay the balance.

Councilman Clarence Joe explained why the town hasn't made the payments on time. "Now we're making sure that we will pay that bill which was accumulated within the last three months because we were using funds to try and play catch up on other matters," said Joe.

Councilman James "Jim" Pigate says the town's treasurer and administrator have helped the town's profit grow in the past three years. He says they've found numerous residents who weren't paying water bills. Pigate says their names were mysteriously dropped from the water record ledger.

According to Pigate, since they've hired a town treasurer and administrator, the town is collecting about $120,000 a month instead of the $40,000 a month they collected in 2009.

He thinks Jackson and three other council members are trying to discredit hard work by the treasurer and administrator.

"It don't take a mathematician to see that they're doing something right, " said Pigate.

After the meeting, Jackson showed us documentation from the financial consultant showing the town's water and sewer account will have a negative balance of $603 after future payouts. He didn't say when that would happen.

However, the town's treasurer, Dora Lee, showed us bank statements showing the town's general operating fund is more than $121,000 and the water and sewer account has more than $64,000 in it.

Neither could explain the discrepancy.

The town's administrator, Mark Fountain, says if the financial consultant had communicated with the treasurer, there wouldn't be any questions about finances.

Council plans to hold another special session to discuss proposed cuts next week.

It will be council's eighth meeting in the past four and a half weeks.