Supervisor to revisit $1,800 monthly contract with former sheriff

Published 9:43 am Friday, August 24, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors will revisit July’s decision to terminate a $1,800 monthly contract with retired Sheriff Vernie Francis to maintain the emergency communication system, which includes 911.

Drewryville District Supervisor and Board Chairman Dallas Jones asked that the issue be placed on the agenda for the 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27, meeting at the County Administration Building in Courtland.

“We acted hastily on that so we need to go back and get somebody in place before we do anything else,” Jones said. “We have millions of dollars invested in our radios and we need to keep them going until we find someone.”

At the request of Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike, supervisors last month voted to terminate the contract by the end of August.

Francis’ job requires maintaining the system, which includes four towers, 911 equipment, and radios and pagers for police and fire departments. Francis, who retired in December, received the contract because of his familiarity with the equipment after 28 years in office.

Updike for several months had questioned the need for the contract and had hoped to find someone on payroll to handle the duty.

Sheriff Jack Stutts said he has one employee familiar with the equipment, but that employee is too busy to take on more work. He also questioned the decision to terminate the contract without a plan in place.

Updike said Thursday he supports Jones’ right to revisit the issue, but it’s beyond his comprehension of what should be done.

“To me it’s like the taxpayers are poked in their eye with a finger,” he said. “We don’t care what they wish. The county officials will do what they want to do.”

“We’ll never be able to get our expenses under control as long as the county government keeps spending and don’t listen to the wishes of the county citizens,” Updike added. “There’s going to be fireworks.”

Stutts is pleased to hear the matter will be revisited.

“I certainly agree with the chairman and I think they may have had some inaccurate information they acted on,” he said. “I’m confident they will correct it.”

Stutts would like to keep Francis.