The town of Pineville will soon be getting a new police officer - with four legs.
The Town Council has approved funding for a new K-9 program that will allow the department to add a police dog to the force.
"This will be a great crime-fighting tool," said Pineville Police Chief Rob Merchant. "Now, when we need a dog, we have to use CMPD, Matthews or Mint Hill canines. We would use a canine more if we had one working.
"It's going to be a big benefit to the town and to the Police Department."
The dog will be asked to perform a multitude of tasks: tracking lost children or adults as well as tracking and apprehending criminals, securing perimeters and detecting narcotics.
Pineville police Officer Todd Bradshaw, a former kennel owner and dog trainer to state and federal agencies nationwide, will be the handler. The dog, probably a German shepherd or Belgian Malinois, will live with Bradshaw and his family.
The initial cost of the dog, including training and equipment, will be about $21,000. The department will spend another $24,600, from its Drug Forfeiture Fund, to purchase a K-9 vehicle. This will free the police car currently used by Bradshaw.
Food costs are estimated at $600 annually and a local vet has volunteered his services to care for the dog.
The department hopes to have the dog on active duty by spring 2012.
In other business, the council:
Approved up to $10,000 to add a 60-foot stretch of sidewalk and a crosswalk along South Polk Street, from the Food Lion Shopping Center to Lowry Drive. Owners of the shopping center will be building the sidewalk in front of their property.
Directed staff to revise the town's concealed-weapons ordinance to comply with a newly passed state law. Concealed weapons currently are prohibited on town property, including parks. With the new state law, the town can prohibit concealed weapons on playgrounds and ball fields, but not in general park areas such as greenways.
Changed the date of its next meeting to Nov. 15 to avoid meeting on election day.
In 2009, the Mint Hill entered into a $249,000 contract with HNTB to create a new, comprehensive land use plan for the town and a small area plan that would detail how the area around the Lawyer's Road/I-485 interchange should be developed.
The small area plan was approved last year, but recently commissioners voted down the new proposed land use plan. Over the past few months, some residents expressed concern with the proposed plan because of higher density development slated for some areas. A recent online survey also showed that many residents preferred keeping residential development on larger lots.
Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers says he thinks the board made the right decision.
"To me, the cost is not the issue. No matter what the cost was, I can't vote for something I don't feel is right for the town. I appreciate and respect the time and effort by HNTB and our land use committee, but I can't explain why it went in the direction it did. I think the citizen survey should have been done at the start. I don't think we had enough citizen input in the beginning to get the plan going in the right direction," Biggers said.
Once the plan was voted down, commissioners instructed staff to amend the 2000 Land Use Plan with the small area plan and downtown overlays, and label it as the new Land Use Plan for the town.
The land use plan is not a legal document, but is referred to by commissioners when they are considering a zoning request.
Commissioners also approved a text change to their sign ordinance, at the request of Carolinas Healthcare Systems, to allow larger signs for multi-tenant medical buildings except for those in the downtown overlay district. The change was requested because Carolinas Healthcare officials said patients had a hard time finding the location of their doctors at the Mint Hill Medical Office Plaza on 10545 Blair Road. They say a new sign should be in place by the end of the year.
A new state law allows campaign signs, no larger than 864 square inches, to be placed along state roads, and towns and other municipalities have no control over them.
Recently, the N.C. Department of Transportation removed several signs from state rights-of-way in Mint Hill because they were too large, but left other identical signs standing.
Lewis Mitchell, NC-DOT engineer, says if you call and report a sign you believe to be out of compliance, someone from his department will come out and check it, and remove it if necessary. But each sign must be reported individually.
They do not intentionally drive through the town looking for violations.
"We do not have the resources to go out and look for signs," Mitchell said.
If you see a sign you feel is out of compliance and want to report it, call Mitchell at 704-596-6900 and give him the specific location of the sign.