NORTH LEWISBURG – Deputies from the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office have been removed from the village of North Lewisburg since the start of this year after the two parties could not reach a contract agreement for services.
In the comment section of a post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page about a Jan. 11 armed robbery, the sheriff’s office states as of Jan. 1 the contracted service between the village and sheriff’s office has expired.
“The contract has not been renewed and the deputies previously assigned to the village of North Lewisburg have been reassigned to patrol duties within the county,” the post states. “Although there are no deputies immediately posted in North Lewisburg, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office continues to respond to calls for service. If you see suspicious activity please call dispatch and a deputy will respond.”
While the sheriff’s office still responds to calls in the village, Champaign County Sheriff Matt Melvin said the village is not receiving the community-oriented policing they are used to.
“You’re not seeing an officer up there during the day, during the evening, so you’re not getting the community policing that they were paying for before,” Melvin said.
Village Administrator Andy Yoder said with deputies being pulled from the village, North Lewisburg has lost a deterrent to crime and could see longer response times.
“What incidents or crimes are deterred by the fact that there’s actually a deputy driving through or a deputy seen in the village? To me that’s the biggest thing,” Yoder said. “The next thing would be the time of response, what time does it take having them here versus having them in Urbana?”
Speaking with the Daily Citizen this week, both parties expressed they are open to continuing to work on a contract, but both parties stated there have not been any conversations to resume negotiations.
Sheriff presence has been in village since ’90s
Melvin said the sheriff’s office first contracted with North Lewisburg in the 1990s under Sheriff David Deskins.
Yoder said prior to having dedicated law enforcement the village would pay for special detail where deputies would patrol for a few hours a day. In the late ’90s, Yoder said the village received a grant allowing them to sponsor or pay for a deputy solely dedicated to the village for a shift or a day.
“After that it kind of grew and the village opted, once the grant ran out, to fund a single deputy on our own and later brought in a second deputy and we’ve been doing that for quite awhile,” Yoder said. “Some of the elder guys on the current sheriff’s office started in North Lewisburg – Glenn Kemp and Matt Larmee and those guys. Roger Freeland came out of the jail (duty) when it was still in Champaign County he was the first dedicated North Lewisburg deputy, so it’s been quite awhile.”
Melvin said deputies provided police services in the village for 80 hours of service per week. He noted the contract has never really changed since Deskins initiated it.
Yoder said the village has always tried to have a daytime deputy and someone to fill in points in the evening.
Village expresses concern with service
Last year, the sheriff’s office was contacted by the village regarding the service provided to the village.
Mayor Cheryl Hollingsworth said during village council meetings citizens would state they had not seen deputy sheriffs in the village. Yoder said the village paid for another deputy contract to fill in vacant times but this slowly went away.
“We found that one of the deputies was being pulled off for other duties – he’s a very talented young man – and that was fine but we felt that they should send a deputy to replace him since we were paying for the service … that wasn’t happening,” Hollingsworth said. “Then if the young man worked overtime on that particular event then the time off came from our hours and it would’ve been the sheriff’s hours.”
Hollingsworth and Yoder met with Melvin and Capt. Dave Rapp on Sept. 30, 2016, to discuss the village’s concerns. Hollingsworth said the meeting was not successful.
“I had one of the officers be at a training for two weeks,” Melvin said. “While he was off to go to that training she wanted his hours covered. To do that by contract with the union that we have we would have to post those hours and they would have to come at an overtime rate and the village would have to be billed for that rate. That’s not the way she saw it; she saw it as if they’re out in training we should cover them.”
Following the September meeting, Melvin sent a letter dated Oct. 5, 2016, to Hollingsworth. Within the letter Melvin states he reviewed the contract between the village and his office entered into on March 20, 2012, for a three-year period and the term of the agreement had expired.
“I have inquired with the county commission and they have no record of a current contract between the village and my office, nor do I,” Melvin stated in the letter.
Speaking on the period of time after the contract ended in March 2015, Melvin said there was no contract but the village was billed quarterly.
“You have indicated that you are unhappy with the services specifically set forth in the contract to be provided to the village to be provided to the village of North Lewisburg by this office,” Melvin stated in the Oct. 5, 2016, letter. “You specifically indicated that you wish for deputy’s hours to be covered by this office while the assigned deputies for the village receives necessary training, which I must ethically provide for the safety of such deputies. You also demanded the deputies’ vacation hours be covered by my office. It is my belief based on past practice this type of expense is not covered in our prior agreements.”
Within the letter, Melvin stated per the contract it appeared his office could terminate services to the village, but added he would provide them with a 90-day written notice of the termination of contract between the parties. Melvin asked the village to consider that letter as the 90-day notice.
“If you do not wish to terminate the services provided to the village, please advise,” Melvin states in the letter. “Hereafter, if you wish for services to continue, we may need to discuss the terms of any future agreement further.”
Hollingsworth responded with a letter dated Oct. 21, 2016, stating she had reviewed the letter with village council and they would like for the sheriff’s office to propose a contract for services to the village providing service for 80 hours per week.
“If village deputies are in training, or if a village deputy is re-assigned for special investigations, we would like another deputy assigned to our village,” Hollingsworth stated in the letter. “We look forward to receiving a contract for review in the near future.”
A contract for services was sent to the village which they received in November.
In reviewing the contract, Hollingsworth and Yoder expressed concern over no prices for services being on the contract.
They also expressed concern over a part of the contract which stated if covering the hours of an assigned deputy would incur additional overtime costs to the sheriff’s office then the covering of any of the hours of the assigned deputy by another deputy would be invoiced to the village and shall be at the sole discretion of the sheriff.
“Our thought was with appropriate scheduling, overtime shouldn’t be an issue or if overtime needs to be incurred it needs to be agreed upon between both parties,” Yoder said.
Another portion of the agreement the village expressed concern over was a section stating the village would agree to purchase, maintain and outfit a patrol vehicle(s) for the use of deputies.
Yoder said the village has always purchased vehicles about every six years and turned them over to the sheriff’s office.
“Under the old agreement they would insure it, maintain it because they’re the ones operating it,” Yoder said. “We have no responsibility to be able to dictate how those vehicles are maintained or how they are utilized. The new contract basically wants to make us responsible for maintaining the fuel, the oil changes, repairs, the tires and things like that.
“We felt that was kind of unfair because the vehicles are used outside of the village of North Lewisburg. If they get called out and have to respond to Christiansburg, our vehicles going there.”
Yoder stated the village owns the two vehicles used for sheriff’s office operations in the village.
Melvin said one of the vehicles used in the village is seven years old and maintenance costs are outrageous.
“It gets to be where we’re pouring money into it every day to fix the vehicle, at the end of the day the vehicle’s not worth that,” Melvin said. “It financially doesn’t make sense for us to keep pouring money into a vehicle and it not run.
“In the new contract, I asked that they would purchase a vehicle, maintain a vehicle, supply gas for the vehicle. My thinking behind that is there’s a gas station in North Lewisburg, there’s maintenance garages in North Lewisburg where they can have maintenance done if it’s not factory covered by warranty.”
Melvin said the sheriff’s office tries to rotate through vehicles every four years, but the vehicles used in the village last longer because they do not incur the mileage of vehicles used throughout the county.
Melvin said Yoder contacted Rapp in early December. He added the village had interest in a month-to-month contract which Melvin said would not secure the position for the two deputies.
Yoder said he met with Rapp and Champaign County Assistant Prosecutor Jane Napier later in December. He said the village wanted a 90-day extension on the contract negotiations but stated the parties verbally agreed to a 30-day extension.
“I wanted to get a 90-day extension on what we were doing at that point in time; they weren’t comfortable with that so kind of gave us 30 days so we were actually looking at the end of January to be the timeline that we’d have to at least be really close to having a final agreement. But the deputies were pulled the first of January,” Yoder said.
“When you enter into an agreement with the assistant prosecutor, his captain and Andy and you agree to 30 days to have a final document ready for the commissioners’ approval and our council’s approval one would think that you would keep your word,” Hollingsworth said.
If the village does not come to an agreement with the sheriff’s office, Yoder said the village could look to form its own police department, but he noted he is not sure this would be a cost effective option.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.