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Valley Grande swears in new officials

VALLEY GRANDE — The next four years of city government took its course under new leadership.

The second administration in the five-year history of the city took its oath of service and conducted its first official meeting as a body Monday night in the public safety building.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard swore in Mayor Tom Lee and council members Marie Middlebrooks, Donna Downs, Libby Ezelle and Steven Neighbors.

The council also approved Janet Frasier as its city clerk and treasurer. Frasier was approved at the council’s meeting two weeks ago and has already begun her duties. However, the council again had to approve her position because she began under the former administration.

One of the city’s first official orders of business was to further invest in the safety of its citizens.

Concerned about a rising number of house break-ins and car burglaries, the city donated $1,000 to Crime Stoppers, a program that pays people for tips that lead arrests in crimes.

Members of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department spoke during the meeting requesting a donation that would be used to pay informants.

“We’re asking help from this community because a lot of the money will be paid out here,” said Investigator John Hatfield, who directs the program. “Will some of the money be used in Selma? Yes. But some of their money will be used out here, too.”

Chief Deputy Randy Pugh added that funds donated to the program goes into a pool that is paid to helpful citizens throughout Dallas County.

Money paid out for tips ranges from $25 to $1,000, depending on the severity of the crime. A tip leading to an arrest in a murder case is a guaranteed $1,000, said Hatfield. All informants can report information confidentially through a system that uses a four-digit ID number instead of a name.

In addition to supporting the program, Lee urged citizens to be more aware of potential dangers — including actively participating in neighborhood watch programs.

District Attorney Michael Jackson added that criminals are more likely to strike in situations when people feel safest.

“When I was in private practice, my office got broken into,” Jackson said. “The people who broke into my office were guys that I let cut grass. [Criminals] watch everything. The main thing is you just have to watch out, be alert. Get burglar alarms, keep your car doors locked.”