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Perry police chief: OT in crisis mode

PERRY TWP. — Police Chief Mike Emigh told trustees he needs a full-time officer after losing another part-timer and starting to accrue overtime.

“We are now in crisis mode,” he said during Monday’s trustee meeting.

He had only received one application for an already open part-time position and that applicant has a full-time job somewhere else. The department has been working for over a year without filling a full-time slot and trying to use part-timers to cover where needed, but part-time officers keep leaving for full-time jobs with benefits elsewhere.

“I stretched this out for as long as I could,” he said.

Earlier this year, the department had four full-time officers and five part-time officers after not filling a full-time vacancy last year. The department still has the four full-time officers, which includes Emigh, but now they’re down to three part-time officers with the most recent resignation of Chris Helsel.

Emigh said he wants to hire a full-time officer, possibly from within the part-time ranks, to use as floater to cover different shifts, and keep two part-time officers on staff. He said he didn’t know what was left in his budget and now he’s having overtime costs. In his 13 years as chief, he said he’s had more overtime in the last two weeks than the last five years. If he can’t hire from within to find a full-time officer, he’ll have to hire one from outside and reduce the hours of the three part-time officers.

Trustee Chair Cliff Mix said they’ll need to meet with Fiscal Officer Susan Johnston to see where the finances stand and get answers, such as what the starting rate would be for a full-time officer.

Earlier in the meeting, resident Maria Harrold asked about the money being spent on part-time officers for training. Emigh explained that new officers have a 120-hour training period, with the first part spent memorizing all the roads of the township, then riding with another officer and then taking a test. The officers are paid by the hour. She said it seems self-defeating because the township is training them and then they leave.

Trustee Jim Armeni asked if they could require them to stay for a set amount of time, but Emigh said that’s hard to tell a part-timer they can’t leave for a full-time job with benefits. Then Armeni suggested making them reimburse the township for the training.

Resident Linda Dickey commented from the audience, “then you’ll never get anybody.”

In another police matter, trustees again passed resolutions to seek the values of a levy renewal or replacement, this time for the 1.5-mill police department levy last approved in 2015 as a replacement for five years. At the last meeting, the trustees passed resolutions related to the safety forces levy, but then learned that wasn’t the levy expiring.

The 1.5-mill police levy was first passed in 1990 and renewed several times in five-year increments until last time when trustees agreed to seek a replacement of the levy to bring it up to current property values at that time. Johnston estimated that the levy is currently generating about $130,000. Once the certification is received, the trustees will take action to place the levy on the March ballot, either as a renewal or a replacement depending on the amount certified to be generated.

The levy is used for police operations. The department also relies on another 1.5-mill levy that’s collected on a continuous basis and a 1-mill levy that’s collected for five years. The safety forces levy, which is 1.5 mills, is split between the police department and fire department and can only be used for equipment or communications. It’s also a five-year levy.

In other action, the trustees agreed to allow officers to purchase their old guns, since the department purchased new service weapons. The next meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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