Kingston will be keeping its police department until further notice as discussions regarding amendments to the budget are set to begin Thursday. The decision comes after receiving letters from citizens regarding the issue with one resident speaking at the Monday night meeting saying, "We need to work together and stop being negative."
A discussion with Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap to house a unit in the city was negatively received by the sheriff, and other options were presented such as allowing deputies to respond as calls are taken by Bartow 911. Another option, if the council votes to abolish the department, may be to have part-time officers through the Bartow County Sheriff's Office cover shifts in Kingston using the Kingston vehicle and receiving a salary without benefits from the city. Discussion is expected to continue as soon as possible in order to reach a decision as council member Chuck Wise described a lack of police protection as "telling someone you're on vacation" so that they may burglarize a home.
While the matter of the police department is among the top priorities of the city, other matters were discussed at the meeting. The council received bids on two pieces of property within the city's possession: a golf cart and a Ford Crown Victoria that was previously used as a police car. Bids for the golf cart ranged from $75 to $710, with the winner being Harold McCoy for the highest bid. The winner for the old police car is Wanda Williams, whose $1,200 outbid five others ranging from $150 to $1,000.
The council approved to sign an agreement regarding Local Option Sales Tax funds where all Bartow County cities and the county divides funds based on population percentage. The 2010 census showed Kingston's population dropped to just over 600 residents. Due to the city's financial state, mayors from the remaining municipalities as well as Commissioner Clarence Brown agreed to allow Kingston to receive the same dollar amount as it had before the population change. The city, when funds are available, anticipates receiving a little more than $1 million.
Until amendments can be made to the budget to determine where funds are available, the council tabled a vote on donating money to the Mattie McGruder fund, established by remaining family members. McGruder is First Lady Michelle Obama's great-great-grandmother and lived in Kingston, where she is buried. The fund would be used toward the construction of a monument at the believed location of McGruder's grave. Federal and state officials also are expected to erect a monument at some point in the future, which may draw tourists to the small Bartow town.
As the council wrapped up their meeting, Mayor Ron Casey informed the council that a sample had been taken of their water and returned with an unsatisfactory result. A second test was then conducted and the result returned normal. Currently, the city's water is normal and the mayor said there is no need for alarm or concern.
A special called meeting will be held Thursday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall to discuss amendments to the budget. All citizen input, comments, concerns and questions are welcomed by the mayor and council.