By Brenton C. Davis
Local Government Reporter
CORNELIUS NC: While usually a civil affair, the March 18 Board of Commissioners meeting for the Town of Cornelius became heated as residents and officials both sought answers from newly elected Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry L. McFadden for actions within the town.
Sheriff McFadden listens to outraged residents
Town of Cornelius residents voiced their concerns and outrage over a February 17 speed enforcement operation held by Sheriff McFadden along Jetton Road in west Cornelius. The operation resulted in 21 speeding tickets during the 2-hour period. Many residents expressed confusion as to why their neighborhood was targeted. Cornelius resident Ron Kelly questioned the wisdom of the action when it was neither requested by nor coordinated with local law enforcement.
The sheriff has the legal authority to run these operations
When given the opportunity to speak, Sheriff McFadden cleared up misconceptions about the sheriff office’s purview. He asserted his legal authority to conduct these operations anywhere in the county. Members of the board stated multiple times that they recognized Sheriff McFadden’s authority. Commissioner Kurt Naas brought up instances of residents calling both the town and the Cornelius Police Department seeking information. No one was able to answer because “[They had] no idea what was going on.” Commissioner Nass clarified the issue by stating that the Board only wanted to know why this operation was authorized.
Residents express dismay at being targeted
The audience became agitated when Sheriff McFadden pointed out that the reaction to his department’s actions reflected the privilege of the area. He did, however, promise to better communicate with both the town and local law enforcement in the future. He also promised to better communicate with Mecklenburg County citizens. His office has a 12-man community engagement force working to shine light on all that they do.
The purpose of the operation was saving lives
Following up on comments made during the hearing, Chief Deputy Rodney Collins stated the purpose of the action was saving lives. When asked if this action would cause behavior change, he remarked that , if nothing else, it would effect change while they were out there. This statement contrasts with procedures outlined by Chief Kevin Black of the Cornelius Police Department, who had asserted that attempts to reduce speeding in a given area would require repeated enforcement over several weeks or months, not a one-time action.
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Speeding Tickets in Cornelius
I am a 63-year-old white woman. Thank you, sir, for taking the heat and exposing privilege.”
One of many comments posted as of March 25 on the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.
Cornelius Police Department
recognized for excellence
The Town Board recognized the following officers for their achievements. Officer Jeffrey Heinz was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Officer Bradley Nichols was promoted to the rank of corporal. Officer Bryan McGahan was promoted to the rank of corporal. Officer Scott Lee was promoted to the rank of corporal. Sergeant Vaughn Griffin earned his Advanced Law Enforcement certificate. Officer Macon earned his Advanced Law Enforcement certificate. Officer Trevor Hicks and Officer Baxter Roe were recognized for being newly sworn in. Congratulations to these outstanding members of the Cornelius Police Department.
Increased fire risk and other items on the agenda
This week’s meeting also included an impromptu report by Fire Chief Neal Smith on a major fire at the Admiral’s Quarters Condominium Complex requiring a response from Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson, Denver, and Charlotte Fire Departments. He pointed out a continued need for more resources but was thankful that no one was hurt. He also pointed out the increased risk of these fires at this time of year. Fires are typically caused by cigarette butts placed in dry planters. This type of spark causes long-smoldering fires that spread, cause massive damage, and present a huge risk to people.
Other business included the acceptance of a $100,000 Regional Trail Grant. It’s an upfront grant for a 2-year plan to increase the McDowell Creek Greenway. This grant was unanimously accepted. A new plan for use of the Town of Cornelius internet presence was debated and amended. Plans for a new State Employees’ Credit Union building were shared along with concerns about a drainage problem on Smithfield Lane.
You can view this meeting in its entirety here.
Cornelius Town Board meets the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month at 7pm in the Assembly Room at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Avenue, Cornelius, NC 28031. You can view current and past agendas as well as video streaming of the meetings on the Cornelius Town Hall website.
Brenton C. Davis: Raised in the area, I have recently returned after time spent in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C., I hope to bring a level of attention to local matters that are important to our citizens and neighbors.