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Officials hear Springhill concerns

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Residents of the Springhill Community sat scattered about in pews inside the Second St. John Baptist Church and discussed ways to alleviate the drug problem in their community that has escalated over the years, along with long-range expectations regarding community involvement and cleanup and safety.
Community member Betty Watts spearheaded Monday's night meeting, which was followed an appearance at the county commission meeting last week by community members seeking help.
Monday night's meeting was designed to brainstorm ways to better the community.
At least three promises were made by the sheriff's department and Commissioner Todd Williamson, who represents District 2.
The primary concern among residents was safety. Sheriff Grover Smith addressed the crowd of 30-something residents and listened to some voice concerns about the problems they have encountered within the community.
Citing a lack of additional monies in the budget, Smith said that he has to offer comp time to his deputies, rather than paying overtime. He added that virtually nobody in the county gets paid overtime, and finding men to volunteer their time for mere wages would be hard, but doable.
Shaun Jones, a deputy, stepped up to the plate and agreed to volunteer his time in exchange for the comp time. Monday, he had spent four days patrolling in the community and so far, the sheriff's department has seized a car with crack cocaine inside the car.
Smith said the driver, who is presumably the owner, outran deputies, and the department is waiting for the owner to claim the car.
Smith also said that he has met with East Brewton Mayor Terry Clark who agreed that with the hiring of a new police chief in East Brewton, the East Brewton Police Department will begin patrolling streets in the Springhill community that are in the town's police jurisdiction.
Earlier Monday, East Brewton officials hired B.C. Cooper as the new police chief. He begins work on July 28.
But, Smith added that the sheriff's department has certain areas where they are "aware there is a lot of drug activity."
Smith cited five vacancies within the sheriff's department and said he said he is working hard to fill them.
Smith also said that he had no problem securing a sign at the entrance of the community that warned people they might be videotaped in the area. The idea was an attempt to promote awareness and would try to deter the illegal activities going on inside the community.
A neighborhood watch, which disbanded over the years, will be implemented once again if residents agree to the program. Under the program, the sheriff's department will allot two to three video cameras and film to residents. It will be a low-light capable camera. If illegal activity is occurring inside a car or near a car, for instance, it will allow deputies to get a description of the car, which Smith said the department will most likely be able to recognize.
Residents can contact the sheriff's department individually if they are interested in using the camera. The cameras will be used by a resident for two weeks to a month and handed over to the sheriff's department. If the department feels the information on the camera is productive, the resident will keep the camera and the department will furnish more film.
If the information on the camera deems unproductive, a new resident will be chosen to handle the camera.
Williamson later addressed more specific issues regarding residential clean-up, road stripes, possibly adding speed bumps, and replacing street signs.
In reference to the litter, Williamson said it would not be a problem to place a "Do Not Litter" sign within the community and he would place a work order for them immediately. He also suggested that the community members designate a clean-up day.
Williamson said the county would provide a dumpster for a community clean-up day.
He also added that he would quickly write a work order to add yellow lines to roadways, which will better identify the right of way in designated curves.
Residents were hoping to add speed bumps on the roadways, but citing potential liability issues, Williamson said the county is unable to place speed bumps on county roads,
However, he said he would look at placing either 3-way or 4-way stop signs at the three major intersections on Springhill to alleviate the speeding problems.
The hour-in-a-half meeting left some residents breathing a sigh of relief and welcomed the sheriff's ideas and Williamson's timely responses to their neighborhood needs.
The next meeting has been scheduled for August 8 at 7 p.m. at the St. John Baptist Church.