Police merger a ‘study’

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fearful of a merger between Brewton and East Brewton’s police departments, citizens filled the East Brewton council chambers Monday evening to make their voices heard before the city council members.
Some residents were allowed to speak after requesting a spot on the agenda. Evelyn Edwards asked if the decision to merge the two police departments had already been made.
“Have you voted on this already?” Edwards asked. “Is this a money issue? For 32 years we have had police department coverage in East Brewton and they’ve done a good job. If we let the police department go, what’s going to happen to us? We don’t need Brewton to come in and take over our police department.”
Mayor Terry Clark told Edwards and others present that no decision about a merger had been made and the discussions about a possible merger were only “talk.”
“I can assure you 100 percent that nothing has been done,” Clark said. “This is just a study being done to see if it could financially help East Brewton. Once that study is completed, then the council will decide. Nothing has been done. Right now it’s just talk.”
Many citizens privately voiced concerns over a merger of more than just the police departments. Nora Gleaton expressed that concern publicly.
“If we merge with Brewton police is that a way of us becoming Brewton?” Gleaton asked. “Is there no possibility that we will ever merge?”
Clark said that possibility didn’t even exist.
“As long as I am mayor we will not be Brewton,” Clark said. “I don’t see that happening at all.”
Gleaton said comments had been made in the community that East Brewton’s budget would stand to save about $70,000 a year if the merger took place.
“It’s less than that,” Clark said. “It looks like it would be more like $50,000.”
When asked where the savings would be spent, Clark said no discussion had been held on that particular topic.
“I don’t know where it would be spent,” Clark said. “Maybe we could possibly give our employees a raise.”
One East Brewton Police Department employee said an employee raise would be a slap in the face to those employed at the police department.
“Are you saying you would give the employees a raise and put others on the unemployment line?” Alissa Edwards said. “To do away with the East Brewton Police Department and dismiss us like that isn’t fair.”
After the meeting, East Brewton Police Chief Kenny Brazile said that while the possibility of a merger is out there, he won’t let it interfere with the work the department is doing for the citizens.
“We have heard so much support from this community about the job we’re doing here,” Brazile said. “This city is full of friendly and caring people and we plan to continue our work and protect them as we have in the past.”
Brazile did say the thought of having the entire staff of the department unemployed is one he tries not to think about.
“If this happens, there will be 17 people out of a job,” Brazile said. “To know there is a study being done that would put those people on the unemployment line is discouraging.”
Brazile said since the talk about the possibility of a department merger had circulated through the community, citizens from across the area have shown their support to East Brewton’s officers and staff.
“I think seeing this many people at a council meeting shows that the citizens are not in favor of this potential merger,” Brazile said. “To see that many people come out and to hear the talk on the street about this is a good thing. The people of East Brewton care about this city and the police department. We are getting supportive comments from East Brewton and Brewton citizens about the work we’re doing. That’s what we intend to do is work for the community. We will continue to provide the best services possible for the citizens of East Brewton. That’s what our job is and that’s what we intend to do.”
Brewton City Councilman Fred Barton was on hand for the public meeting in East Brewton.
Brewton council members did not discuss the issue in their Monday meeting.