Officials Looking Ahead After Jacksonville Police Dept. Disbandment

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Wed, Sep 25, 2013 12:53 pm

Days after Jacksonville officials announced it would disband its police department, the police chief and surrounding communities are looking for a new solution.

"It puts everyone in a real bind," said Doug Davis, mayor of Trimble.

Trimble contracted with Jacksonville for police presence within its village, so now it, like Jacksonville, will have to rely on the Athens County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement.

Jacksonville's village council approved the disbandment of the police department on Sept. 17, due to financial strains and an audit that had $19,000 in findings against the village.

Sheriff Patrick Kelly was notified through a letter from the village solicitor last week that the sheriff's office now had added responsibilities.

"We've notified the solicitor and the mayor that we will provide protection, we've notified the staff that we are covering the area now," said Kelly. "We handle state laws, so we won't be handling local ordinance calls, like loud music or noise complaints."

The sheriff's office will not be able to do radar patrols within the village either, Kelly said.

Surrounding villages have their own police forces, but are still wondering how they will make up for the loss of protection in Jacksonville.

"It's certainly going to mean any time our officers are in need of assistance, we'll have to wait for the sheriff's office, or get the help of other departments like maybe Murray City or Corning," said Miles Wolf, mayor of Glouster.

Glouster and Jacksonville were working on an agreement that would reinstitute a policy that would include mutual assistance in police manpower between the villages. That effort now seems moot. Glouster Police Department has been operating short of full staff as some officers have suffered medical issues that required leave.

Brad Larsen, who will remain chief of the Jacksonville Police Department until Sept. 30, talked to Jacksonville Council and was told it would take about $35,000 to fund a police department for one year.

"It doesn't seem like they are going to make an attempt to bring it back," Larsen said. "So I'm working with (Davis) to try to establish a Trimble Police Department."

Davis said he is currently researching what it would take to get a police force going in Trimble, and is waiting to talk to Village Solicitor Frank Lavelle about what they need to do legally to get started.

"People have offered to do fundraisers but down the road, you have to have the resources," Davis said. "We can't get a police levy on at this point and it's getting harder and harder to pass levies these days."

Larsen received $10 an hour working in Jacksonville and was only paid for 20 hours of work per week. He said he still provided 24 hours of police presence.

It would take about $40,000 to $50,000 for a police department in Trimble, Davis estimated, but the village already has a police car they are working on.

Larsen's wife, Jessica, also started a fundraising effort on gofundme.com to try to get the police department back but says she is now going to try to raise funds for the Trimble force.

"I've been talking with the mayor of Trimble and he said it would be awesome if we could get around $30,000 to just get started," Jessica Larsen said, adding that they were looking for more people to help with the fundraising efforts. As of Wednesday, no donations had been made through the website. Davis was not notified of the Jacksonville disbandment until after the vote had been made at council, but he is now looking to avoid putting the burden on the sheriff's office, he said.

"When the bad guys find out you don't have a police force, that opens up a door," Davis said.

Tags: