NEW MADISON — As 2017 dawned, New Madison residents learned that its Police Department cruisers will no longer patrol the streets. Instead, Darke County deputies will handle law enforcement duties in the village of 1,100.
The Village of New Madison Council entered into a proposed contract with the Darke County Sheriff’s Office for police protection, December 29, 2016, at its year-end council meeting. The move results in the layoff of all department personnel and the disbanding of the department.
Mayor Lisa Garland said she found the decision to let go of the village’s police officers upsetting.
“This was not a spur of the moment, not an easy decision,” she said, explaining that the village council had discussed the move for a number of months beforehand.
The council, with input from the former Chief of Police Chester Banks, had to make some tough choices, she said. According to Garland, at the Nov. 7, 2016, council meeting, Banks presented a proposed police department budget for 2017. Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer was invited to attend that meeting to answer questions that might arise about his department patrolling the village.
Garland said the submitted police department budget was approximately $69,000. At the end of 2016, the police department had spent $89,900. Hours were cut from the department at the end of the summer by 22. The reduction in those hours allowed 55 to 58 hours per week for the entire department, which consisted of four part-time paid officers, and one auxiliary officer, Garland added.
Garland said the council was presented with, several additional expenses that were not included within the $69,000 budget submitted. The countywide changeover to the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (or MARCS) was going to be a substantial expense for the department, as was addition of Spillman, the computer-aided dispatch system. New Madison’s police department is the only one in the county without that system, she explained.
“We were also informed at that time that more training hours were required for police officers in 2017, adding even more expense,” Garland said. “The council was told at that time by the chief it would be difficult to keep the department going in 2017.”
“After a lot of discussion and homework by council and myself, and reviewing the proposed contract given to us by the sheriff, it was voted unanimously to enter into the contract with the Sheriff’s [Office]. The department will patrol the village 45 hours per week. Those hours will be spent on our streets. They will not have offices at the city building. This opens the village up to so many additional resources, such as a drug officer, detectives if needed, and so forth,” she explained.
Garland said the cost of the contract with the Sheriff’s Office is $69,686.88 per year, which is an approximate savings of $20,000 from what was spent on police protection in 2016. In addition, the village will not be paying for training, insuring the officers or vehicles, uniforms, radios, two cell phone lines or vehicle maintenance, she said.
“The decision to go this route was not an easy one,” Garland explained. “Any time a village disbands its police department it is an unfortunate thing, but council and myself truly believe this is what is best for our town, and everyone who lives here. There are only four other villages in the county that have their own departments, and they have populations of at least 300 more people than New Madison. Bradford made this same decision several years ago, and it has worked out great.”
When asked for his thoughts on New Madison disbanding its police department and contracting with the Sheriff’s Office, Darke County Commissioner Mike Rhoades said all the smaller village police departments are “struggling.”
“The sheriff’s been approached by numerous different villages. Ansonia is one of the last ones. Gettysburg had been one, for coverage. New Madison approached him quite some time back,” he said.
“[Sheriff Spencer is] working out fine details with them as to what the numbers are going to be. Whatever they will pay his department to cover that, [the Darke County Commissioners] have to increase his appropriations to take care of that,” Rhoades said.
“I don’t think this is going to be a big deal,” said Commissioner Mike Stegall. “I think you’re going to start seeing this in a lot of other counties too. They just can’t afford it. There’s not that [tax] base there.”
Advocate Reporter Carolyn Harmon contributed to this story.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com