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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: An arm patch for Mills River cops

One of the things a consultant told Mills River Town Council members they must do if they create a police department is to design an arm patch.

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We can spare the council the brainstorming. We’ve got the perfect image.
It’s simple and familiar and conveys a clear message. It contains firearms. It reflects the political conflict that is leading either to the creation of a largely unnecessary police department or the deployment of six sheriff’s deputies to the farming community.
Our arm patch for the new Mills River Police Department or for the platoon of deputies serving the town? A circular firing range.
The fuss that turned into a feud that turned into a prideful battle of will goes back years. Some say it goes back to the incorporation of Mills River in what County Commissioner Grady Hawkins calls the dead of night (engineered by a newly elected state senator named Tom Apodaca who had just defeated him in a Republican primary.) The scab peels off every time the county watches Mills River sock away its share of local sales tax proceeds. The ugly feeling peaked last year when Henderson County raised the cost of the town’s sheriff’s deputy by $38,000 a year. Mayor Larry Freeman and the council members made no secret of their opinion. The county shafted them.
The caterwauling provoked County Manager Steve Wyatt, with the support of the whole board of elected officials and Sheriff McDonald, to say the hell with it and pull the contract. Wyatt wanted to terminate the agreement on June 30; board Chairman Tommy Thompson granted Freeman’s plea for a stay of execution until 2017. Donald Trump has been telling us that walking away is an effective negotiating tactic. Wyatt must be reading his book. In stage 2, the county has offered to provide “enhanced coverage” for $725,000 a year — six times the current price. Surely Mayor Freeman and the council members have noticed that 725-large is roughly the same price their own consultant said they’d need to shell out for a Mills River Police Department.
Where do we go from here?
If the Mills River Town Council throws another public tantrum about the new number, then that’s probably where that number stays. The reasonable outcome here is a halfway point. The narrative of the county is that if Mills River wants to be a city it has to step up and act like a city. Meaning what? Mills River adopts a crushing tax increase for a vanity police department, shredding its reputation as a fiscally conservative town that leads the southern mountains in attracting good-paying manufacturing jobs.
All the gunmen in our circular firing squad think they know exactly what they’re shooting at. Henderson County commissioners think they’re shooting at Mills River council members. The Mills River boys think their sights are trained on the commissioners.
Neither side recognizes that all 10 shooters, instead of aiming at one another, have their guns pointed straight into the temple of Mills River taxpayers.