For $14.25 an hour, a man with the right stuff could become Hobson City’s new and exclusive peace officer — but for no more than 16 hours each week.
“He’s going to have to be tough,” Town Councilman Freddy Striplin said Tuesday by phone. “It’s kind of wild down there right now. People are coming outside and shooting up into the air, because they have no concern, or are not afraid.”
Calhoun County’s sheriff says that relatively speaking, though, the town doesn’t deserve the reputation it’s gotten for being lawless. Striplin has proposed taking the money Hobson City currently pays to Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office — up to $1,500 in a month, and $18,000 per year — and spending it to hire Hobson City’s own part-time lawman.
The money now goes to the county agency, where Sheriff Matthew Wade spends it to pay deputies who’ll take four-hour-long overtime shifts in the tiny town on their days off.
It’s not that the agency’s deputies aren’t doing a good job, Striplin said. Hiring even one police officer could be beneficial in several different ways, he thinks.
Wade, meanwhile, said he’s open to helping the town establish its own one-man force, if that’s what officials want — but says he’s not been asked about it, and doubts the town could get more than his agency provides.
“I still think we provide more for them than if they even have three or four,” the sheriff said.
Deputies have patrolled Hobson City’s streets since 2013, but who enforces the law has been a tough question to answer for decades.
The town’s own police force disbanded in 1996, according to news accounts, with allegations of mismanagement and nepotism clouding its reputation. County deputies were paid to take up law enforcement, until a deal struck with the Oxford Police Department routed all calls to that agency.
When the town managed to hire its own police chief and one officer, the chief was arrested for selling guns to felons. The town eventually couldn’t pay the salary of the officer it had.
The most recent deal with Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office was done in 2013. Wade said deputies patrol the town each day, just as they do any other area of unincorporated Calhoun County.
“They get the exact same service that I get,” said Wade, who lives in Alexandria. The town may have a reputation for being crime-ridden, he said, but that’s not entirely accurate. Alexandria has more crime on a per capita basis than the far smaller town, Wade said.
Striplin believes hiring an officer would net the town a few benefits, both immediate and long-term. He proposes paying approximately $12,000 per year for the part-time enforcement, with the remaining $6,000 used on a vehicle and insurance costs.
First, Striplin said, the officer hired could enforce town ordinances and write tickets for violations — money that’d go back to the town. The officer might restore some civic pride among residents, too, he thinks.
“I just believe in my heart that it would also add a level of pride back in the city — to see a guy in a car that’s got ‘Town of Hobson City’ on it,” Striplin said. “To know that this guy is theirs.”
Striplin proposed repurposing the money now spent on deputies at a Town Council meeting earlier this month. The council’s members took no action on the proposal, but Mayor Alberta McCrory encouraged him to continue working on it.
Wade said he’s not heard from Striplin or anyone else in Hobson City about the endeavor, but said he wanted to help.
“My door is always open,” the sheriff said.
Striplin said he intends to discuss the issue with Wade. He’ll need the sheriff’s help, he said, in knowing where to look for qualified candidates for the job.