Fulton board questions support of programs

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Fulton leaders are mulling the city’s support of a couple of programs.

During last week’s regular meeting of the Fulton Board of Aldermen, city officials discussed whether or not to significantly cut or even outright stop making its annual contributions to the Itawamba County DARE program.

The suggestion was offered by Fulton Mayor Paul Walker, who asked the board to either cut the city’s yearly $10,000 contribution in half to $5,000 or do away with it altogether.

The mayor expressed his belief that the city is putting more into the program than it’s getting back.

“I think we’re paying more than we should,” Walker said. “I don’t think we’re getting more out of it than we’re putting in.”

While the board didn’t outright agree with the suggestion — in fact, they eventually tabled it until they could research it further — they didn’t outright decline the suggestion either.

“Our problem is, we don’t know how they’re spending that money,” said alderman Barry Childers — a statement that seemed to mirror the opinions of the rest of the aldermen.

The county’s DARE program is overseen by the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and covers the sixth grade classes at each county school. The program costs just under $43,000 annually. This money is used to pay the salary of part-time DARE officer Terry Fortune, who teaches the class, and purchase the necessary supplies such as workbooks and T-shirts given to students for participating in the program.

Funding for the program comes from several sources: Fulton pays $10,000; the Itawamba County School District provides $15,000; and the Sheriff’s Department’s foots the remaining expenses.

Neither the town of Mantachie nor Tremont contributes funds to the DARE program, though both of their schools participate in the program.

Whether or not Fulton specifically is getting the most out of the anti-drug program would be difficult to see at a passing glance. The city’s annual $10,000 investment can be seen as just that — an investment, the results of which may or may not be accurately discerned until years later.

For example, how many Fulton students has the program prevented from falling into a pattern of drug abuse and arrest — racking up expenses for the local police department — over the years? Without polling each and every single one of the program’s participants, an accurate number is likely impossible to obtain.

Aldermen will continue to discuss the city’s support of the DARE program during future meetings.

Animal shelter

The board also is considering whether or not to provide financial support for the proposed Itawamba County animal shelter.

According to Walker, representatives from the shelter’s board of directors have asked the city to make a yearly contribution of $10,000 to the shelter to help with operations. In turn, this would remove the city’s current responsibility of housing stray animals, which is currently done in a small penned area within the city landfill.

Whether or not this is a good tradeoff, the board wasn’t certain. While agreeing the new animal shelter would take some of the pressure off the city, aldermen weren’t sure if the savings were there.

Fulton’s animal control operates using a single dog catcher, who is also an employee of the street department. Captured animals are housed for approximately five days before being taken to the Lee County Animal Shelter, where Street Department Director Stacy Smith said most are adopted.

During their stay in Fulton, animals are fed and receive medical attention, if needed. The city spends approximately $4,300 annually to care for animals housed in its shelter, not including manpower or gas.

Smith said the city is typically housing between five and 10 dogs at any given time.

While still expressing interest in supporting the proposed animal shelter, the board also expressed satisfaction with the current setup.

“Our system isn’t bad right now,” the mayor told the board. “It’s not perfect, but it works.”

Walker said it’s possible the city may support the program in other ways — possibly providing labor or land. The board tabled the issue and is expected to return to it during a future meeting.

adam.armour@journalinc.com