Pawleys Island plans to cut police coverage to help pay for beach renovations | Georgetown Times

PAWLEYS ISLAND – Pawleys Island is considering cutting its police service by one officer when a patroller retires next year and reducing the number of hours of police coverage.

The savings could be used to help pay for the next round of beach renovations, city council members said.

Following the retirement of Officer Traci Milligan in March, the remaining department will be made up of Chief Mike Fanning and two officers. Council members said getting more help from the Georgetown Sheriff’s Office and adding more security cameras could help local officers.

City police officers covered the island of Pawleys around the clock until 2019, when the city council voted to reduce the department from five to four officers. It also meant that police coverage was reduced to a 20-hour schedule.

As part of a reduction proposed on December 13, police coverage will be reduced to just 12 hours per day. The plan is expected to be considered at a meeting in January, city council member Guerry Green told the Georgetown Times.

City administrator Ryan Fabbri told council the reduction in staff would save the city about $ 50,000 per year. City officials have also decided not to purchase a new patrol car in the proposed budget for 2022.

Suzanne Temple, owner of Tidelife Vacation Rentals, said talks about cutting back police personnel come after visitor numbers have increased by around 20% over the past year on Pawleys. She said rental providers and others doing business on the island should be more involved in deliberations on changing police protection.

“If city council had contacted us before, they might have made (a better decision) than a knee-jerk reaction,” Temple said.

Betsy Altman, owner of Pawleys Island Realty, said she understands the board is facing a tough decision.

“The population swells so much in the summer that I think (the police presence) is necessary,” said Altman, who is also a member of the municipal lodging tax committee. “I know the A-Tax (lodging tax on rental property) has increased dramatically for them. There are a lot of factors to consider. “

The city does not have an officer on duty for several hours in the middle of the night, Fabbri said. Pawleys does not have an agreement with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office to provide additional coverage, he added, although MPs will answer calls on the island.

“I couldn’t answer at one point what their coverage is,” Fabbri said of county MPs.

At the city council meeting earlier in December, Fanning noted that he had a list of part-time agents who can help when full-time agents are on vacation or are sick. These part-time agents have other jobs, so they may not be available to cover all the overtime that the staff cut will create.

The police department accounts for about a third of the city’s overall $ 1.5 million annual budget. Fabbri said the city’s budget has a surplus.

City leaders could use police savings to build a fund for future beach renovation projects, Green said.

The municipality has no property tax. Its budget comes largely from the accommodation tax revenue. Over the past year or so, city council and an ad hoc committee have been looking for ways to increase revenues for operating costs.

As a result of a $ 15 million beach renovation project, the city spent most of its beach fund that had accumulated over the years. The US Army Corps of Engineers and the city’s consultant for the project said the now-completed man-made beach project will likely last around 10 years.

Natural erosion and possible hurricanes and storms will most likely mean that a significant amount of sand will be needed around 2030.

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