Local News

Butner Could Lose Its Public Safety Department To State Budget Cuts

Posted June 21, 2002 6:01 a.m. EDT

— With the proposed closing of a mental hospital in Butner, some North Carolina budget writers see little need for the town's state-supported public safety department.

The state pays $27 million a year to keep Butner's Public Safety Department going.

"We operate as a security force, as a fire force, as a police force," said Rufus Sales, Butner Public Safety director.

Sales said his 35-member force not only serves as the town's police and fire department, it also provides security for 25 state and federal agencies and institutions, including an adult and youth prison.

The state is already thinking about closing Umstead Hospital and Murdoch Center, which help mentally ill patients. If that happens, lawmakers say they could save millions by cutting the town's public safety.

Without a public safety center, the county would have to keep the peace in Butner. It is something the county looks upon as another financial burden placed upon it by the state.

"And that would involve several more deputies, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 15. Probably a volunteer fire department, which would have to be funded initially and thereafter by Granville County Government," said Ron Alligood, Granville County commissioner.

Alligood and the rest of the county commissioners hired a lobbyist to convince legislators they are going down the wrong road. Many in the town agree that letting a specially-trained force go and mothballing mental health facilities will cost more than they save.

Making sense of the state budget and Butner's future rests in the hands of the state House. Members will begin considering the budget on Monday; however, it could be several weeks before they present their decisions.