Will Silver Grove Dissolve Police Force? Community Weighs In
Silver Grove citizens were given the chance to voice their opinions on whether the city will transition to the County Police force or keep its own Thursday evening, though City Council will not make a final decision on the matter until September 10.
Mayor Neal Bedel began the meeting by reiterating several points: A) Regardless which direction the city goes, there will always be a police presence within the community. It will not disappear, he said, contrary to a few circulating rumors about town; B) “Whether or not you like (Silver Grove Police Chief) Doug Holt, or whether or not you dislike Doug Holt, it has got nothing to do with his performance. I personally am a fan of Doug Holt, I think he does a great job and I think he will continue to do a good job, so…we are here to discuss whether we want to as a city, have our own police department or do we want to bring in the county under a more full-time basis?,” Bedel asked the gathered crowd.
Next, Campbell County Police Chief Craig Sorrell addressed council and citizens and restated points that the department wasn’t there to disparage Silver Grove’s current situation but only to inform citizens of their potential services and costs if they chose to go that route. Many sitting in the school’s gym voiced a common concern with the amount of time it currently takes the county to arrive in Silver Grove to address a situation but Sorrell assured them it would be a non-issue. If the county plan is selected, then an officer will be assigned to patrol the city on a daily basis, so “you’ll never be without a police presence,” he added, pointing out the only occurrence of unavailability would arise from a catastrophic event across town that required the response of everyone.
Though Bedel stated he’s on the fence regarding whether he prefers his city’s department versus the county, his biggest pressing issue is lawsuits. “That’s what concerns me more than anything, the liability issues,” he said. “We are insured, we do have that behind us to help us but if we were to get sued and lose, yes it would be paid out but what happens with our rates after that?” City Attorney Cameron Blau pointed out it is incorrect to believe that the city couldn’t be sued if it made the department switch; only that it would be less likely to occur.
The mayor then talked about facts and figures relating to their agreement to patrol neighboring city, Melbourne, with one officer on a 40 hour per week basis, costs being all-inclusive: (retirement, gas, patrol car, “everything that it takes to pay for a police department”) $105,000. If the city went with its second option of patrolling 50 hours per week, it would cost $106,000, including the overtime payout.
Silver Grove also receives $20,000 from Melbourne as part of its agreement.
The floor was then opened for questions from the assembled audience.
“We pay Campbell County taxes, we pay Silver Grove taxes…and like you said, when he ain’t here (Chief Holt), Campbell County comes down and assists anyway and stuff is working. Why fix it?,” the resident asked Bedel to applause.
“What we’re looking at here is having somebody only in Silver Grove…they will be in Silver Grove for 40 hours a week, 50 hours a week, or 70 hours a week, whichever one we would choose, whichever route we decide to go,” the mayor answered.
Campbell County Administrator Matt Elberfeld: “Yes, everyone does pay Campbell County property taxes. We actually don’t use that money to fund our police department…that goes to other county-wide services. A lot of it goes to the jail, animal shelter, and emergency management. How we fund our police department is through the insurance premium tax.”
Another resident brought forth a hypothetical scenario: If the city’s department disbands, and after a few years with the county it decided “we’d like to have our own guy again,” what happens? Blau shared there was a precedent, referencing Southgate a few years ago merging with Highland Heights, only to reverse course later and bring back its own department.
Sensing she was in the minority among the audience regarding her thoughts toward the county, Marlene Black, whose husband owns a business in town, said, “I’m glad I’m not the Campbell County Police Chief tonight because some of you seem to hate him,” she began.” “…I think because they are a big agency we get the idea that they are against us and not going to help us. Of course it will take them 15 minutes to get down here now because they don’t have a dedicated police officer serving Silver Grove…I can’t imagine walking away from this deal. I don’t see an upside to not taking this deal.”
Present throughout the entire meeting, Holt was finally encouraged by a few audience members to speak, to which he obliged. He’s been offered four jobs, he said, all of which included pay raises. “It has been an honor and it has been a pleasure and I hope to be able to continue to do that,” he said to widespread applause.
“We are a one stop light, one police officer kind of town,” a resident remarked, a nod toward many others’ shared feelings about the tradition its own department has held within the city for years and with which it does not want to let go of easily.
Written by Jason Finnell, RCN contributor
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