by Josh Lanier

HUNTERSVILLE – Commissioners approved a motion Monday, June 6, to hire a full-time advocate to assist victims in rape, domestic violence and abuse cases ,with a few caveats.

Commissioners unanimously approved the measure to pay United Family Services $15,000 for the victim’s advocate but said they want Huntersville’s other partners – Cornelius, Davidson and Mecklenburg County – to put up their portion of the cash. Cornelius allocated its $15,000 share for the position in this year’s budget. Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice has budgeted his town’s $15,000 contribution for 2011-12, and Davidson commissioners have indicated their support for that allocation.

Monday night, Huntersville commissioners said they want United Family Services to present its plans for the position, how it will be implemented and how the person hired will shoulder the workload. Commissioners decided to approve the funds so United Family Services could budget the money accordingly but said the conditions could be used as leverage in future discussions with the Cornelius-based agency.

The board decided use United Family Services instead of hiring someone to work within the town’s police force for a number of reasons. Most notably, commissioners said, the agency has the know-how to train and best deploy the victim’s advocate. Commissioners could have spent a little more than $16,000 to hire a part-time victim’s advocate for its police force.

“I don’t know if we’d be able to even get someone competent for that part-time position for that amount of money,” Commissioner Danae Caulfield said.

Having a regional victim’s advocate would also provide the next step in getting a magistrate dedicated to north Mecklenburg, to make the court system more accessible to police and residents on matters like issuing warrants and bonds for the recently arrested. This would keep police and victims from driving to downtown Charlotte whenever they needed someone to handle those issues and allow them to spend more time in the area, officials have said.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley and Chief District County Judge Lisa Bell told the board previously that the victim’s advocate was the first major step in getting a magistrate for north Mecklenburg.

Commissioners thanked Caulfield for her work in hammering out the finer details of the proposal with leaders at United Family Services.