By Ronda Wertman
ELK GARDEN -- When you take over a dozen felons to jail and the Department of Justice (DOJ) awards a $50,000 grant, people start to notice.
"We were blessed to get that," said Elk Garden mayor Marian Droppleman of the Community Oriented Policing Services COPS Hiring Program grant, which will be utilized toward three years of salary for Chief Jimmy Stewart.
"We will pay 25 percent and the DOJ will pay 75 percent," she said.
With the grant, the town has certain documentation that must be maintained and the council voted to pay grant writer Ralph Rice $600 a year to administer the grant.
"We’re gaining ground and we don’t want to lose what we’ve got," said Droppleman of the importance that all the grant conditions are met.
As part of documentation a police log will be kept showing responses with other agencies and efforts within the town.
"I’ve taken 18 felons to jail. They like that," said Stewart.
During the recent council meeting Stewart drew fire for not enforcing no parking areas in town.
Town citations are something that the town is working on as the ordinances are reviewed and updated.
"You tell me who else is going to come up here for $100 a week," said Marian as the chief’s position was challenged by a member of the council who alleged that Stewart sits for four to five hours at a time, charges gas, takes the police vehicle home and receives $100 a week.
"You need to know what you are talking about. You can get us in a lot of trouble," she cautioned.
"You are not Jimmy’s boss," said Droppleman to the council, noting that as mayor she is.
"Are we doing our best? Are we doing anything to make an improvement to this town?" she asked, saying that all those seated at the table need to ask themselves that question.
"People voted us in to do what was best for the town. We have come a long way and it’s because of everyone working together," Droppleman said, urging cooperation.
On hand for the recent meeting, town attorney Jason Sites reaffirmed the mayor’s point saying, "This town is moving in the right direction. Some of the best people I have come across in Mineral County are from Elk Garden."
"You need to write an ordinance that has teeth," said Sites. "There’s things you can do police the town without being too costly or too harsh.
"You need to behave in a manner befitting of a public official and focusing on the good," he added.
In other business, the town is looking to solicit bids for paving and rentals are now available for the town park for gatherings of up to 100 people.
The town received another Walmart grant for $1,000 toward personal protective equipment (PPE) and is looking to receive $17,500 toward an equipment building.