INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- Indian Trail’s mayor is claiming that intimidation by an official in the Union County Sheriff’s Office prompted him to change his vote on a controversial plan for the town to start its own police force.
The sheriff’s office has provided police service in Indian Trail for about 20 years, Town Manager Joe Fivas said, and the current pact is worth nearly $1.6 million a year. The contract expires June 30.
Mayor Michael Alvarez said Thursday he initially intended to vote for a plan at a Feb. 16 meeting that would end negotiations to renew the sheriff’s office contract and instead create a town police department.
The packed, raucous meeting was attended by residents, deputies, Sheriff Eddie Cathey and Lt. Chase Coble, who oversees the town’s sheriff’s deputies.
Alvarez read a prepared statement indicating he favored a plan for a town police force. But he ultimately voted against the plan, and it was defeated 3-2.
Alvarez said Thursday that during a break before the final vote, Coble told him to “watch out.” Alvarez said he felt intimidated and fearful.
“I haven’t slept,” Alvarez said. “I’m now afraid of the people who are there to protect me.”
He said he has not filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office because he did not think anything would come of it.
Cathey said he had spoken to Alvarez since the meeting, and the mayor had not raised any concerns about Coble. Cathey said Alavrez is perfectly safe, and that if he has any issues, he should bring them to him.
“I feel like that (safety concern) sounds a little dramatic to me,” Cathey said. “He and his family are safe in the county.”
Coble could not be reached for comment.
There long has been talk about the town having its own police department. Nearby Monroe and Stallings have their own forces, and Indian Trail has overtaken Monroe as the county’s most populous municipality, with more than 34,000 residents.
Town officials and Cathey now say they expect the contract to be renewed.
Alavrez, who was elected mayor in November 2011, said he still would like to see Indian Trial examine costs and other issues of having a police department versus using coverage by the sheriff. That way, Alvarez said, people can look at the facts and make an informed decision absent the emotion that has surrounded the issue.