ONLINE UPDATE: Spruce Pine Town Council tables downtown security camera proposal
SPRUCE PINE – The Spruce Pine Town Council at its regular meeting this past week tabled a proposal to install security cameras downtown.
The topic of security cameras, better lighting and increased police patrol in the downtown area was again brought up in early February when two trucks belonging to a downtown business were the target of theft.
At some point overnight Monday, Jan. 29, someone stole all four wheels and tires off a 2015 full-size Chevrolet Colorado truck belonging to Peoples Furniture in the public parking lot behind the Mitchell News-Journal. The center caps were also stolen off a Peoples-owned 2010 GMC Sierra.
Peoples Furniture posted a picture on Facebook of the truck without wheels propped up on concrete blocks. The post was shared more than 450 times and generated a thread of comments mostly discussing the need for more police presence and security cameras in downtown.
"The posts were not intended to point fingers," Peoples Furniture wrote in the comments section of the post. "After years of reports of vandalism and theft, we are fed up and want to bring public awareness to this issue and need help getting it addressed. It is not simply for our own benefit, but for the safety and best interest of our town.
“We appreciate and respect all our local fire and rescue, police and town and county officials that work to make our community better.”
Peoples Furniture also had its fall display stolen this past October by a Newland woman. The theft was caught on a trail camera provided to the business by Summerlin, but the woman caught on camera was never arrested, she instead received a criminal summons to appear in court. Her hearing Tuesday, Feb. 13, was continued for the third time.
All except one of the Spruce Pine police officers attended this past Monday's meeting and Chief Billy Summerlin praised the officers during his department update.
Summerlin had sent a letter to Mayor Darla Harding and the council prior to the meeting that was not read aloud, but was described by Harding as "heartfelt."
"When you get up to go to work every morning, you don't know what you're going to face," Harding said to Summerlin and the officers.
Summerlin told council two of his officers recovered the stolen tires and center caps this past weekend after receiving a tip, but added he wasn't seeking recognition for finding the stolen property.
“We don’t get called to do this job for a pat on the back,” Summerlin said. “I take great offense to someone calling this a slum town. We’re pretty tough, we can take our lumps. Our job goes beyond Oak Avenue. No one remembers the good stuff we've done."
Summerlin's mention of "slum town" was alluding to a letter sent to councilmembers by FoxFire Real Estate owner Peter Franklin, who has expressed his concerns about the Spruce Pine Police at previous council meetings.
"Police officers are siding with perpetrators against the victims of the crimes committed and not only failing to do their job, actually encouraging theft, as was the case I presented to you a while back," Franklin wrote in the letter. "At that meeting, I told you that if you didn't get control of this situation, that something else was going to happen and it would only continue to get worse."
Summerlin told council this past Monday that his officers have a lot of ground to cover.
“We’ve got more problems than I care to talk about,” he said. “We’ve got a whole town.”
Summerlin also addressed the claims his officers do not patrol enough downtown, citing patrol logs showing police made their way down Oak Avenue 352 times between Oct. 3-30.
“I’m not trying to explain away anything,” Summerlin said. “I feel like my guys are doing their jobs.”
Summerlin said the social media outcry after the Peoples Furniture Facebook post prompted him to take a stand for his officers.
“We’re out in town,” he said. “The [stolen] wheels are in the back of my truck. There’s not one of these officers I wouldn’t go to the grave for and there’s not one that wouldn’t go to the grave for this town. We just want you to know we’re here. We do what’s required of us.
“I wanted everyone to see these men. They have families and they love this town. If I didn’t stand up for these guys, what kind of chief would I be?”
Harding said she is proud of her town and implored citizens to call 911 in the case of an emergency rather than calling her or members of the council.
Town Manager Richard Canipe presented security camera quotes from McKinney Computer Services Inc. and Appalachian Protective Services after members of town council instructing Canipe at the Jan. 8 meeting to get proposals for cameras. Canipe received three estimates – two for one camera on Oak Avenue and one on Locust Street and another quote for two cameras on each street – ranging from $19,000-$28,000.
Canipe warned that with the type of cameras the town received quotes for, recognizing license plate numbers or small details would be impossible.
"You can only make out the color and which way someone is going," he said.
Purchasing the cameras must be approved by the council since the expenditure is not a budgeted item. The council decided to table the discussion until its next meeting when representatives from the two business that provided quotes can provide more technical information about the cameras.
“I think it’s something we all need a lesson in before we decide,” Canipe said. “But it’s a great idea.”
Installing cameras in downtowns is gaining popularity in North Carolina. The city of Gastonia in late January installed 52 cameras along two downtown streets for $288,000. That cost includes six Wi-Fi access points, a 60-terabyte server, video management software and a five-year contract with the technology firm Security 101.
In other business at the meeting, Public Works Director Phillip Hise said his department completed 215 work orders in January, adding the cold weather made things busy.
“It stayed cold for several nights,” Hise said. “That’s what got us. We’re still chasing a few water leaks.”
Canipe praised the public works and water and sewer departments for their hard work.
“They’ve put in some long hours,” he said. “They’ve dealt with some nasty stuff.”
Spruce Pine Main Street Executive Director Libby Phillips said six business have inquired about space in downtown Spruce Pine.
The building on Upper Street that housed Mayland Printing, which closed this past month, will go up for sale soon, Phillips added.
“It will be listed for sale as soon as they get the paperwork filed,” she said.
The council unanimously approved a decision to give $300 to the Mitchell County Historical Society for the 2nd annual History Bee Thursday, March 22, at the historic courthouse in Bakersville. The contribution matches of the town of Bakersville’s donation.