Created on Friday, 18 January 2013 Written by NATE SMITH
Steady increases in crime and drug-related activity have Lakeview village officials considering reinstatement of a local police department, which was suspended nearly eight years ago.
Council members and Mayor Ryan Shoffstall have been considering bringing back the police department for about three months now.
“Residents and business members really started to ask — not just me, but members of council — about bringing back the police department,” Mayor Shoffstall said.
A three-person committee was set up to evaluate costs for restarting and maintaining an active police force.
Those proposals were laid out Thursday in the first of two public meetings seeking input on the topic.
CLICK HERE to view a PDF copy of the proposals.
Mayor Shoffstall said a dozen or so people turned out for the first meeting, conducted in council chambers, and everyone seemed to agree that a local police presence was a good idea as long as it’s financially viable.
It would cost $31,000 up front to restart the police department, and at least $62,000 annually to maintain it, according to a pair of proposals spelled out Thursday.
The $31,000 in initial costs include: $12,000 for a police cruiser; $10,000 to re-establish a mayor’s court; $3,500 for uniforms and radios and another $5,500 for a line item marked “various.”
The $62,000 figure represents the cheapest on-paper cost to staff a police department.
Under this proposal, the village would hire three part-time officers, a chief and two officers, who would each work 20 hours per week.
“With three officers working a total of 60 hours, plus (an) additional four auxiliary officers working 16 hours each per month, total coverage would equal 76 hours per week,” the proposal reads.
The second option for the department is to employ a single full-time police chief to work 40 hours per week.
Coupled with an additional four auxiliary officers, total coverage under this proposal would be 56 hours per week at an annual cost of $88,000.
The majority of the difference in cost between the two options is tied to approximately $28,000 in benefits the village would be obligated to pay its full-time police chief.
With three part-time officers, the village has estimated $5,000 in benefits.
“We’re looking for the best value of dollars it would cost to operate the department,” the mayor said. “We can’t fund a police department solely from our general fund.”
As for funding a police agency, council would likely ask voters to pass an income tax that could cost the average Lakeview resident about $150 per year.
That’s if council puts forth the .5 percent income tax, a portion of which would also be allocated toward the funding of fire services.
A more modest income tax floated by the committee would be .25 percent to fund only the police department. That tax would cost the typical Lakeview resident an extra $75 per year, Mayor Shoffstall said.
The half-percent tax would generate $90,000 each year, while the .25 percent levy would bring in $45,000 annually.
Mayor Shoffstall said council may instead consider allocating some of the money it receives for its electric generation toward funding the police force. He acknowledged, though, that option might result in an increase in electric rates.
The Electric Utility Tax brings in $35,000 each year to the general fund and currently funds are returned to the electric fund to offset potential electric rate increases. A household bill of $100 would see an approximate increase of $5 per month.
The former Lakeview police department was suspended in February 2005 after council determined it could no longer afford it. In those days, the police department was paid for entirely through the village general fund.
General fund dollars up to $25,000 a year would be used to pay the balance of the costs to operate the police department.
Because the department was suspended rather than disbanded, council needs only to hire a new police chief and officers to reinstate its law enforcement operations.
Currently, the village spends about $12,000 each year to contract with the Logan County Sheriff’s Office for added patrol of the village — 40 hours per week in the summer and 20 hours weekly in the winter months.
The second public forum on this issue is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers. Council meets again in regular session Feb. 4.