The LaGrange Town Council held a special session last Thursday to discuss the need for a fifth full-time police officer as well as how to fund any extra positions.
Town Marshal Rich Snyder brought information to the council to support his recommendation for a fifth officer. “Does the town need 24-hour coverage?” he asked the board. “The board has to decide that. But if you look at the workload, the answer is yes.” He noted that the caseload includes over 50 crash reports and 1,000 written warnings during the year, along with other police services needed throughout the town.
There has been 24-hour coverage, but only “due to the sacrifice by the officers,” Snyder stated. Officers have sacrificed vacations, holidays, and comp time and have not been paid for it, Snyder informed the board.
“We can’t have officers working for free,” agreed council member Greg Kenner.
Snyder did point out that, with a fifth officer, he would not “sit in the office Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. I should still be out there. I should take a shift, too,” he said.
A fifth officer would also help control overtime, Snyder told the council.
One way the town could get closer to affording another full-time officer would be for the town to drop the county’s code enforcement contract at $6,500 per year. Snyder told the council that the department would implement a plan that would see the officers patrolling specific sections for code violations on every shift. He recommended that the town remind residents about the various ordinances that can be enforced prior to starting that system.
The council also discussed the need for a town court, particularly if the town officers begin handing out code violations.
The board approved the recommendation to get a fifth officer, but needed to look at how to fund the position. The board asked that options be brought to the board at their next meeting.
Options could include not purchasing a car for the first year of the new officer’s tenure and then adding the new position into the 2014 budget. The board also discussed hiring a part-time officer for 2013 that would cover the time currently being served by officers without pay.