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Johnston loses police department

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Johnston loses police department

Trustees lay off 10 officers, accept chief’s resignation; budget woes cited

By MARLY KOSINSKI / Tribune Chronicle

JOHNSTON — Citing budget constraints, trustees on Monday voted to permanently lay off all 10 of the township’s part-time police officers. Trustees also accepted the resignations of part-time police Chief Robert Ludt and Sgt. Sean Bray, effectively shutting down the Police Department.

Ludt did not return a message seeking comment and Bray could not be reached Monday evening.

One officer at the meeting asked, ‘‘The official reason you’re laying us off is for budget constraints?’’ to which trustees said yes.

Trustee Chairman Davis Denman said, ‘‘There’s a lot of questions that need answered and we plan to answer them, but laying off the officers for the time being seems to be the most fiscally responsible thing to do until a levy is passed.’’

Trustees passed first reading of a resolution to place a 2-mill levy on the November ballot that would be earmarked for police protection. The levy would generate approximately $67,000 annually.

Several residents expressed concern about increasing crime rates. That sentiment also was expressed in 2004 when representatives from 10 northern townships, including Johnston, discussed forming a joint police district to combat a rise in crime in the county’s rural areas.

The idea never came to fruition.

Denman said trustees will explore their options to continue police coverage in the township once the levy passed. Until then, the township will rely on the sheriff’s office.

‘‘The decision will be up to the voters,’’ Denman said.

He said there is no levy specifically for the Police Department, which is funded by the township’s general fund. The department’s budget last year was approximately $44,000 and Clerk John Moran projected it to be $47,000 this year if expenditures remained the same.

Moran said each officer was paid a monthly stipend of $72.50, while Bray was paid $180.25 per month and Ludt received $425 a month. However, he said other expenses such as gas, cell phones, vehicle repairs and equipment maintenance ate up a large portion of the department’s budget.

Moran said the township’s annual budget is approximately $1 million, with about half of that coming from ambulance billing and fire department grants. He said the general fund budget is $300,000 and those funds are used for utilities, zoning, equipment and to supplement the various departments.

‘‘Is it fair to the other departments that the police force uses up so much of the general fund money?’’ Denman asked.

Trustee Donald Barzak said, ‘‘At some point, the money runs out and in the meantime, the roads go to heck.’’

Trustee Dominic Marchese said trustees will consult with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to see how to handle open investigations, evidence and pending court cases.

He said they will ask the sheriff’s office how much it would cost to contract with them — similar to the arrangement in Mecca where a deputy is designated to patrol a particular area instead of simply answering 911 calls.

In other matters Monday, trustees:

? Approved spending $500 to create a township Web site with the assistance of Miami University of Ohio, which has partnered with the Ohio Townships Association on Web site creation and hosting. Barzak said he thinks the university will create and host the site for free as long as the township maintains the site on its own;

? Announced it will seek bids on a new roof at the VFW Hall;

? Voted to send paperwork to the county Board of Elections to place a renewal levy for the Fire Department on the November ballot;

? Learned two gas wells will be installed in the township, according to a letter from the county engineer’s office.

? Announced its Memorial Day services will be at 10 a.m., followed by lunch at the VFW Hall.


SOURCE: http://www.tribune-chronicle.com/page/content.detail/id/505253.html
 
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