A panel of elected officials assembled to examine the possible formation of a joint police district to service the villages of Genoa and Clay Center and Allen and Clay townships is turning its attention to conducting a survey of residents in the four jurisdictions.
Dave Fryman, a member of Genoa Village Council who chairs the Joint Law Enforcement Commission, said a survey will be discussed at the commission’s next meeting Aug. 20 at the Allen Township administration building.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
The Ohio Department of Development last October awarded a $42,000 grant to Genoa to fund a feasibility study of forming a joint law enforcement district.
Circuit Rider Management Group, Granville, O., has been retained to conduct the study.
With the release of the study expected this fall, Fryman said it’s time for the commission to seek more input from the public.
“One alternative we will probably look at is whether we need to send out some type of a survey,” he said. “We want the public’s input on this because the bottom line is at some point this has to go before the voters. If we have a lot of resistance to this, that tells us something. But we’re rapidly approaching the point where we are going to have to make some decisions.”
If the villages and townships embark on forming a joint district, it would require “enabling” legislation, Fryman said, for an entity that would include all four.
The study by Circuit Rider Management Group is examining personnel and staffing levels of a joint district, millage needed to support a district, services, and related issues.
“There might be economies of scale from an administrative standpoint with a joint district,” Fryman said. “But we haven’t got the final numbers down yet.”
A joint agency, for example, may be able to support an investigative officer instead of relying on patrol officers for that type of work, he said.
“Everybody wants to save money and we do too,” Fryman said. “But can we provide better services for the same amount of money?”
Other members of the commission include Allen Township trustee Dan Johnson; Clay Township trustee Don Hoeft, and Bob Purney, mayor of Clay Center.
Mr. Hoeft said the Clay Township Police Department is comprised of one full-time chief, three full-time officers, and two part-time officers, and a few auxiliary officers. One of the part-time officers will work this year as a school resource officer in the Genoa school district.
Hoeft said a joint police district could provide better coverage at less cost.
The Clay Township Police Department is supported by three property tax levies with a total of seven mills that generate about $380,000 annually. This year, foreclosures and lower valuations have cut about $45,000 from what the levies usually generate, he said.
The Genoa Police Department has six officers, including Chief Randy Hill, who has been regularly attending meetings of the commission.
Allen Township doesn’t have a police department. The trustees contract with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department for coverage in addition to the department’s routine patrols in the township.
In Clay Center, the police department includes one part-time chief, two part-time patrol officers, and a few auxiliary members.
Joint fire district
For fire and emergency medical service, the two villages and two townships are served by the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District, which was established in December, 1999.
In addition to covering the member villages and townships, the fire district also has a contract for service with Benton Township.
Hoeft, who is also on the board of trustees of the fire district, says its service is “excellent.”
Fryman is also a firefighter/paramedic with the fire district. He described that district as a natural outgrowth of mutual aid agreements among the fire departments in each of the communities.
“The fire district went through an evolution,” he said. “We started a mutual aid agreement between Allen Township and Genoa-Clay Center. Then it developed into the fire district and it has worked very well.”
Meetings of the study commission are open to the public and held the third Thursday of each month. Meeting locations are rotated among the four jurisdictions.