ST. PARIS – The village of St. Paris is asking voters to pass an additional levy for the purpose of supporting the St. Paris Police Department.
The village has a five-year, 4.90-mill additional police levy on the Nov. 8 ballot. The village held a public question and answer meeting on Oct. 18 for members of the public to ask about the levy.
During this meeting a presentation on what the village hopes the levy will provide was shown to residents. Within the presentation, village officials stated the levy would help in the hiring of an additional full-time officer, additional training, updated equipment and consistent 24/7 local police coverage.
The village’s presentation can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6DN472sovE&feature=youtu.be
The levy is expected to raise an estimated $114,000 in revenue annually, according to information from the Champaign County Auditor’s Office. The levy is expected to cost the owner of a $100,000 home $171.50 a year.
Mayor Joe Reneer said the village’s police department currently has one full-time officer and seven part-time officers.
With the levy, Reneer said, the village wants to provide consistent 24/7 coverage with officers who know village residents and have a vested interest in them.
“We would like to provide consistent 24/7 coverage of officers who know that Mary goes for a walk every morning at 5:30 in the morning, going to keep an eye out for her,” Reneer said as an example. “I know she goes this route and if she’s not at this point by 5:45 I’m going to backtrack and make sure she’s OK. The good hometown feel, the good hometown department that we’ve all grown up with and known – that’s what we’re trying to continue to provide for every resident who lives in this village.”
As of the day of the meeting, police had taken 7,380 calls per service this year including 417 traffic stops, 171 tickets issued, and assisted on 133 medical or fire calls.
Reneer said the police department’s total budget this year was $281,420.85. Including salaries for part-time officers, former police chief Jim Pence and current Sgt. Zach Wilkson, Reneer said the village will spend $209,547 on employees this year.
“That is retirement, worker’s compensation, health insurance, their actual wages,” Reneer noted.
Speaking on salaries, Reneer said if the village can pay officers a decent wage it can help retain officers but with the current budget and expenses the money is not available to pay them a better wage. Part-time officers are currently paid $10 per hour.
Within the $281,420.85 budget, Reneer said there is a $17,382 grant the village received to update communication equipment leaving $54,491.85 for other expenses including vehicles, vehicle maintenance, gas, uniforms, ammunition and training.
Reneer said officers are using their own firearms, bulletproof vest and he wants to get to a point where officers have a department-issued firearm and body armor among other equipment. He said the levy will help with this goal.
Council member Dave Palmer stressed money needs to be available for training officers.
“There have been officers here that have wanted training but we haven’t had the funds to give them the training they needed,” Palmer said. “That’s why we need the extra money to help provide that extra training to these officers so there’s a lot more than just having three or four full-time officers…you can have three full-time officers but if they’re not getting the training that they need what’s the point?”
A point of emphasis Village Administrator Joe Sampson discussed was the need for a strong police presence to discourage drug offenders.
“The one thing that scares me to death is in this town if we don’t get a good strong police force, those dealers out there will find out really quick that ‘here’s a nice little place to go hide because we don’t have the police,’” Sampson said. “I don’t want to ever see us get to that point – if anything at all that is the most important thing right now to vote on that police levy is to get our presence back and get coverage and make good trained guys that we can get these people off the street and we don’t want them in St. Paris.”
Reneer stated the money generated from the levy would be solely for the police department.
“This levy would be allotted and earmarked purely for the St. Paris Police Department,” Reneer said. “It couldn’t be spent on streets, it couldn’t be spent on anything in this office, it would solely be for the St. Paris Police Department.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.