Meck Co commissioners debating who to pay for police service in ETJ's

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There's a change coming to policing in extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJ) in Mecklenburg County.

For years, county commissioners paid the City of Charlotte $18 million a year to provide that police service but commissioners voted to end the contract with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police next summer.

County Manager Dena Diorio says the county has been discussing the issue with the respective towns and city.

County officials say Huntersville and Cornelius have decided to go in a different direction and have the county pay them to handle police services to areas just outside their respective towns.

Pineville Police say they're prepared to take over coverage of areas outside their town limits but if the Sheriff Office is awarded the contract, then Pineville would provide dispatch service for the Sheriff's Office.

Now commissioners have to decide to which agency to contract to police the ETJ's of Mint Hill, Davidson, and Charlotte.

It would take effect the fiscal year 2019.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Office gave commissioners a proposal for year one of $21.1M which includes a $9.6M capital advance and $11.5M operating cost to provide police services for those areas.The cost would drop to $11.5M after that.

During a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, commissioners debated whether to go with the Sheriff's Office or discuss a contract extension with CMPD.

Manager Diorio says CMPD wants a five-year deal with extensions.

CMPD is asking for $14M for the first year, which would be the fiscal year 2019. There would be other costs depending on growth in the county.

Some commissioners expressed concerned that CMPD will take the money and put officers in Charlotte trouble spots but not in the extraterritorial jurisdictions. Residents in ETJ's have complained about slow response times.

Manager Diorio says CMPD explained their approach.

"I understand their perspective that they're going to put their resources where their hot spots are and that by doing that that keeps the rest of the area safe," Diorio told commissioners. "So I understand where they are in terms of how that works but we still want to understand what we're getting for the money that we pay."

Commissioner Bill James still maintained his reservations about CMPD.

"Charlotte has been charging  - I think most people would agree that they've been charging a fairly exorbitant rate considering the services they provide out in the hinterlands," James said.

Commissioner Trevor Fuller said he's worried that the issue of public safety is getting lost in the debate over money.

Fuller said it's a "dangerous world" and that it's expensive for departments to train officers and acquire resources to maintain a strong police department.

"Let's stop talking about this – you know Charlotte is somehow robbing other parts of the community. I don't think that true, especially at a time when we're living in a county that is segregated by income and race," an animated Fuller said. "Let's talk about how we can provide for all of our community. My concern is that we are running out of options."

The Sheriff's office told commissioners they need an answer very soon whether the Sheriff should start planning to take over policing.

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