Belhaven loses two more

Published 2:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2008

By Staff
in utilities
Mayor, manager optimistic
about rebuilding police force
Washington Daily News Staff
The exodus of Belhaven town staff continued this week and the trend has spilled from the police department to other sectors of town administration. But, unlike with some of the personnel that left the town’s police force, the latest municipal departures were achieved on good terms, according to town staff.
Utilities Director Toby Woolard and Hap Ambrose, an electric lineman employed by the town, gave notice this week that they would be resigning their positions.
Woolard said his resignation was effective Wednesday, but declined to shed light on his decision to end his employment with the town. Ambrose could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal wished both employees the best, saying their decisions to resin were not the result of discontent.
The exodus began in March at the town’s police department. At present, the Belhaven Police Department has only one of its original nine officers.
Cpl. Lew Hellickson is the only officer left in the Belhaven Police Department. He has been the only officer on the town’s police force since May 23.
Since March 20, the day George Hayden was fired as Belhaven’s police chief and Josh Hopkins was fired as the town’s police lieutenant by the Town of Belhaven, the town’s police force has dwindled to its present strength — with Hellickson as the lone officer.
A new police chief is all but on the way to town, according to Interim Town Manager Guinn Leverett. Twenty-seven applicants responded to the town’s call for a new top cop, he said. Following interviews Thursday, that list was winnowed to five, but Leverett and O’Neal say they have their eyes on a candidate that each described as “spectacular.” However, neither would reveal the candidate’s name.
Leverett said the town hopes to have the new police chief installed in time for him to ride in the town’s Fourth of July parade. That man, when hired, will rebuild the town’s police force “from the bottom up,” Leverett said.
Plans are also in the works for a second officer to join the department soon, according to Harry Meredith, chief deputy with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office
Meredith said there are two reserve Belhaven police officers, Steve Hopkins and Jerry Cobb, who are working part-time for the town.
Since March 20, the sheriff’s office has been working with the town to provide additional manpower to supplement its police force.
Meredith said the sheriff’s office will continue its work for Belhaven until the town hires a police chief.
The sheriff’s office has provided regular patrols in Belhaven during its time of law enforcement responsibility.
All calls to the Belhaven Police Department are handled regularly by the police department dispatchers and they funnel the calls to the sheriff’s office, Meredith said.
Beaufort County is paying its deputies to take the place of the missing Belhaven police officer positions and Belhaven is reimbursing the county for those wages.