Watauga Police Department to close July 1

Published 8:57 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beginning July 1, the Watauga Police Department will cease operation and the city of Watauga will turn over its policing duties to the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.
On Monday, members of the Carter County Commission approved a contract between Carter County and the city of Watauga that would allow the Sheriff’s Department to assume those duties. In return, the city of Watauga would reimburse the county out of the funds previously budgeted for their own police department.
“The city of Watauga reached out to us to contract for their police service,” CCSD Chief Deputy James Parrish told the Commission Monday evening.
In years past, the County had a similar agreement with the city of Watauga for the policing service but the agreement was dissolved under the previous Sheriff’s Department administration. On Monday, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford voiced his support for renewing the contract between the two governments.
Under the terms of the contract, the county will furnish two full-time deputies who will work a total of 320 hours per 28-day work cycle patrolling the city of Watauga as well as the area of the county “west of the Bristol Highway and Smalling Road.” The two deputies will be employees of the Sheriff’s Department and paid through that department’s budget.
In return, the city of Watauga agreed to compensate the county and the Sheriff’s Department $46,362.59 per year as well as provide one police cruiser and cover the cost of any major repairs to that vehicle and will also provide office space for a police substation in Watauga for the officers to work out of.
“In essence, the city pays for one deputy, one car and an office and we will provide an existing deputy,” Parrish said.
During the meeting, Commissioner John Lewis questioned why the county would take on the additional responsibility of policing the city of Watauga.
“There’s got to be some reason why the city of Watauga wants the county take this over,” Lewis said. “We did this before under John Henson but when Chris Mathes came in he did away with it for some reason.”
Enforcing the law and responding to calls for service in Watauga is already the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Department, Parrish said.
“We still have to provide policing services to that area because they are our residents,” he said. “It does not cost the county any additional funds. We do benefit from the $46,000 returned to us from the city of Watauga.”
If the county failed to approve the contract and the city of Watauga disbanded its police department, the county would still be required to provide police services but would not receive any revenue from the city for the service, Parrish said.
When the matter came to a vote, the Commission approved the contract with a split vote of 23-1, with Lewis casting the only opposing vote.
The contract will take effect on July 1 and will hold for a period of four years. The agreement will automatically renew for an additional year after the initial contract period unless either party provides written notice of discontinuing the contract at least 60 days before the agreement is set to expire.

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