2018 budget proposal does not include City Hall security in cuts

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, February 8, 2018

By: Adam Dodson

Mayor Darrio Melton’s 2018 budget proposed to the Selma City Council would see cuts in multiple areas, but could retain the security guard position for Selma City Hall if approved.

According to councilman Carl Bowline, the security would be retained in the budget with the police department. In the past, funding for the security position has been paid for by funded but vacant police officer slots.

In late 2016, Melton introduced the idea to enter a $15,000 contract with Superior Consulting. The security guard, who rotates shifts with others, is paid $14.89 an hour and is located at the front of Selma City Hall, next to a metal detector and a sign-in book.

While the council originally allowed him to go ahead with the partnership, criticism over the security position has increased throughout his term.

Aiming to lean on the side of caution, Melton called this a “step in the right direction” for the city in late 2016. Now, the security guard gives off the impression of an inaccessible mayor.

“I do not think that this is the best use of our money and I do not think that city hall is dangerous enough to merit security. I do not know what has happened that makes him think we need one, but I do not think it is something the city needs or the public wants,” said Councilman Carl Bowline.

“It creates a physical line between the people of Selma and the city government. If the D.A. (district attorney) can run around without worrying about safety, the Mayor should be able to as well.”

While the mayor’s intent with the security guard was not to isolate himself from the public, the main issue appears to be strictly financial.

Part of the money dispute stems from the ongoing situation with treasurer Ronita Wade. After being twice-fired by Mayor Melton, she was reinstated by the city council despite Melton’s claims of a possible criminal investigation.

The situation has led to people taking sides and threats of changes in funding.

With many departments losing funds already, questions of better ways to spend money have been brought up.

This includes Selma City Hall and the Selma Police Department, which could see 2018 budget cuts of $52,000 and $23,000, respectively.

Council President Corey Bowie wants the government to focus on the constituents.

“We have to be on the same page moving forward in order to better the citizens’ lives,” Bowie said. “The only thing I can do is assess whether we still need the security or not.”

One way that has been discussed to aim at spending funds more-efficiently would be a reduction or cancellation of the city council’s discretionary funds. Each councilman and councilwoman receives $10,000 to help their individual wards.

While Bowline believes $10,000 may be a little much, he does not want to see the funds go towards security.

Instead, he believes the money that is spent on security or extra discretionary funds would be better elsewhere.

He also says that Ward 1 constituents in Selma have expressed their displeasure with the security guard position.

“The money is for the taxpayers, so there is no way I would support funds going to security if any are left over,” Bowline said.

“The money should be going towards the police department, museums and public works, among others. There are a lot of other areas where this money could be used better. Our problems are not white or black. They’re green.”

Despite the financial disagreements, the budget has not yet been approved and the security still remains. According to Bowie, there are four or five budget hearings scheduled, with the first taking place around Feb. 19.

After multiple attempts, Melton could not be reached for comment Thursday.