New Rising Sun commissioner settles in
— Not long after taking the oath of office, Augie Pierson said he started getting phone calls from residents wanting to talk to him about a variety of issues.
And recently while having dinner in a Rising Sun restaurant, he was approached by people with opinions about the town police department.
The message he has for all of them is simple.
“Please come to the meetings and express your viewpoint and how you think the town can be improved,” Pierson said.
In the four years since he last held public office, Pierson said the use of social media has exploded. At the town meeting Tuesday night, he said it was both amazing and disturbing how many people lash out online but won’t attend the twice- monthly town meetings.
“You can’t sit at home and say, ‘ I don’t like this’ and expect things to change,” Pierson said. “This is the part of a citizen government with the free exchange of opinions. Express your viewpoint and how you think the town can be improved.”
Mayor Travis Marion agreed that public participation is key.
“No matter whether you agree or disagree, and even if you don’t want to personally get involved, come to the meetings,” he said.
Pierson took office Nov. 22 to fulfill the term vacated by Joseph Shephard. Pierson had served three consecutive terms before losing a re- election bid in 2012. A 2013 campaign ended with a loss as well.
The hot topic on Facebook that got Pierson’s attention was a discussion aimed at dismantling Rising Sun’s police department.
“It would really not be the best direction for this town,” he said.
With two adult children in the public safety sector, Pierson said he has a unique perspective.
“A lot of the problems we have are more serious than people realize,” he said.
During that same meeting, Police Chief Francis “Chip” Peterson reported he and his four officers handled more than 300 calls for service during the previous two weeks including various drug arrests, traffic violations and apprehending a fugitive. Peterson added that, although heroin is the hot button drug, he’s noticing a growing problem with crystal meth in Rising Sun.
While their first responsibility is to protect the town and its residents, Pierson pointed out that the officers do respond outside of town when called. Recently, Peterson traveled to Conowingo to assist Water Witch Fire Company.
“This was an ( emergency medical ser vices) call where a police officer was needed at the scene,” Pierson said.
After waiting 45 minutes for another agency to respond, the call was made to Rising Sun.
“The Cecil County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police don’t have enough manpower to serve individual towns,” Pierson noted.
Port Deposit has a contract with CCSO to provide protection, but only during set hours. He noted that Perr yville moved from the state police resident trooper program — which is now defunct — to its own police department a decade ago. North East and Elkton also have their own police forces.
At the restaurant, Pierson said he was asked why Rising Sun was funding a police department.
“At what point does money versus safety become the dividing line?” he said.
With the growth of the town, Pierson said the point is moot.
“There’s no real justification for us to do away with the police department right now,” he said. “Our principal function is to protect the residents of Rising Sun.”
Augie Pierson returned to the Rising Sun town board last month to fulfil the term vacated by Joseph Shephard.