April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Commissioners to trustees: Pony up

County officials suggest that townships contribute money to fund sheriff’s patrols in their areas

ELYRIA — The county commissioners said that township trustees should consider chipping in some cash if they want to boost the number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling the townships.
During Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners pushed for more townships to sign pacts with the department — paying to beef up patrols in their area. Their remarks came on the heels of stepped up criticism from the Sheriff’s Department and the trustees about how there are too few deputies available.
Of the county’s 19 townships, only Columbia Township has a contract with the sheriff to gain extra patrols on designated nights for about $20,000 annually.
The contract, in place since the early 1990s, calls for a cut of the money from fines and citations to be returned to the township, which amounts to $7,000 to $10,000 annually, said Dale Rundle, a trustee in Columbia Township.
Rundle said the trustees have a deputy stationed in the township on Friday and Saturday nights. “It works out very well for us,” Rundle said.
On Thursday night, representatives from the county’s townships were in Wellington for the Lorain County Association of Townships meeting, where the issue of police protection figured prominently in the discussions.
Some of the trustees said they’ll consider a contract if it will mean increased road patrols, but most said they first want to prod the commissioners to restore some of Sheriff Phil Stammitti’s funding.
“We’ll be discussing all our options,” said Richard Williams, New Russia Township trustee. “But hopefully, we’ll be able to persuade the commissioners.”
Williams and other trustees said they’re planning to attend the June 28 commissioners meeting, and they won’t be alone. At least one trustee from each of the 19 townships will attend, bringing along six residents from each township. That’ll mean at least 133 people in attendance.
“That’ll be a meeting to go to,” Williams said.
Williams said sheriff’s reports are hinting that rural township areas are seeing more robberies and burglaries. He said it is becoming “a crisis situation.”
Rita Canfield, vice president of the Lorain County Association of Townships, said the “townships pay more in taxes than they receive in services.”
“We’ve been talking about this for the past 2½ years,” said Canfield, a LaGrange Township trustee. “We’re well aware of the situation with funding.
“This should not, in my opinion, be pitting one community against another,” Canfield said. “This should be a priority for the whole county. The sheriff’s department is the first line of support and recourse even for municipalities — the bomb squad, SWAT.”
Sheriff’s Capt. Rich Resendez said he needed to hear more from the townships and commissioners before he could offer any comment on the contract proposal. Stammitti was not available for comment Thursday.
Commissioners enacted a 0.25-percentage point increase in the county sales tax to raise more money for the county’s general fund, but a referendum means voters much approve it in November for it to take effect.
Dave Noll, a consultant for the county sheriff, said there were three deputies and one sergeant patrolling 357 square miles Thursday — far too few in his opinion. He said he wasn’t impressed with the commissioners’ proposal to seek money from the townships.
He also said that county Administrator Jim Cordes asked whether deputies were promoting the passage of the sales tax increase.
“Maybe if we were assured the money was used for safety forces,” Noll said. “Right now, it’s just going into the general fund.”
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.