NEW MADISON — At Tuesday night’s council meeting the Village of New Madison Police Department disbandment discussion changed course.
Council had just received a three-year contract to consider from the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, asking 69,686.88 for 45 hours a week. That is also with a fuel stipend, not to exceed $7,500 per year, Council President Jeremy Doolin added.
At a Nov. 7, 2016, council meeting, former Chief of Police Chester Banks presented a proposed police department budget for 2017, to the council, for approx. $69,000. The council did not approve it for financial reasons, according to Mayor Lisa Garland. She said after a lot of discussion and homework by her and council, and reviewing a proposed contract given to them at that time, by Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer, it was voted unanimously to enter into the contract with the Sheriff’s Office. Discussions were had that the contract be for one year, in the event council might want to cancel.
At a Jan. 10 council meeting, Sheriff Spencer said that his only reason for putting three years into the contract was that he had to supplement his manpower, and he did not want to hire somebody for only one year.
Yet, council seemed surprised when the contract came in at three years. It is a a game-changer, Councilman Doolin said at last night’s meeting. Councilwoman Patty Jackson said she definitely did not see approving a three-year contract. Councilwoman Nancy Hill said she thinks the village will do better with its own department and one vehicle. She proposed an idea that she described as a rough plan with rudimentary figures.
“If we want a police department, and we want to fund it better than we were, I think we can hire two part-time officers for $35,000 at 40 hours per week – 20 hours each,” she said. “That is paying them each $12.50 an hour, which is more than we were paying the other guys. Then add in $1,000 for medical and tax collection, $4,000 for supplies and training and keep one vehicle. If we do this, we have to put a levy on in November that needs to be an additional two mills. And if the officers are part-time, we won’t have to pay health insurance.”
Councilwoman Hill also said they should purchase the Spillman Dispatching, because New Madison is the only village without it in the county.
“Now we are starting to add in the additional costs we were trying to avoid in the first place,” Councilman Doolin said.
“I understand that,” Councilwoman Hill said. “But it is just for one year. And this new contract from the sheriff’s office is a $210,000 contract.”
Former Police Sgt. Mike Lewis said Spillman is a wonderful tool, but it is not a necessity. Plus, without the internet, it is not an option.
“Why was this discussion you are all having now, not held prior to disbanding the police department?” Lewis asked. “This is the kind of discussion that should have occurred a meeting or two ago.”
“It did, in Executive Session many times,” Mayor Garland said.
“We had to make a decision at the end of the year whether to ‘ok’ their contract and we didn’t have any lead way on that,” Councilwoman Jackson said. “We had to go one way or the other.”
Councilwoman Monyca Schlechty asked about the risk of implementing Councilwoman Hill’s plan.
“If we go with something similar to her plan and then the levy is turned down, then where are we?” she asked. “Will this contract from the Sheriffs Department be available to us, at that time? I would hate to enter into a contract, knowing that we want to cancel. If we can discuss our situation with them, are they willing to re-negotiate with us on the terms? What is the proper procedure to do that?”
Councilman Doolin suggested to ask Sheriff Spencer how much his department would charge for what he is doing now.
“He could come through for a few hours without a contract and he wouldn’t have to hire anyone. I think he understands our money situation.” Doolin said of the approximate $27,000 of current funds.
“Someone needs to step forward and make contact to see if there are any negotiable assets that can be made to this contract,” Councilwoman Schlechty said.
“I think we are getting along ok,” Councilwoman Hill said. “Am I wrong? I don’t think we need to have coverage here on a full-time basis – I think that is throwing money away we don’t have.”
“I don’t think we need to rush the decision,” Councilman Doolin said.
Councilwoman Nancy Vietor said she is concerned because the village is without formal protection.
“Here is what happens,” she said. “People hear that New Madison doesn’t have coverage then it attracts the crime element. We have enough rentals for those people to come into town. We need to have police presence.”
“That’s why I think our safety committee needs to meet with someone,” Councilwoman Schlechty said.
Councilman Doolin said he will hopefully have the committees done by Friday.
“Hopefully, before the next meeting, we can sit down with [Sheriff] Toby or have him come to the next meeting,” he said.
“Let’s not keep carrying it over,” Councilwoman Schlechty said. “I want to do it face-to- face and let’s get it solved. My opinion is that we need to get an answer and to get something accomplished, but I don’t want to jump and do something we are not prepared to do.”
Members of the Arcanum Police Department attended the meeting to see the items the Village of New Madison is possibly selling from the former police department: two vehicles, a Dodge Charger and an SUV and some equipment. According to Garland, other county police departments have also inquired about the purchases, such as, Union City, Ansonia and Greenville. Garland suggested if they sell the car, that would probably make the final payment on the SUV.
“Let’s have our ducks in a row before we start hawking things,” Councilwoman Jackson said.
“At this point, we are looking at things to scrap and sell things just to pay for police protection,” Councilman Doolin said. “How will we get by the second year when we don’t have any more stuff to sell?”
“The thing that we all need to realize, is we can’t just make this decision for one or two years,” Councilwoman Hill said. “If we start selling things, we are decimating any potential of bringing back our own police department, and I still think we can do it with two part-time officers.”
The next Village of New Madison Council Meeting is Monday, Feb. 27.