Council says levy is insufficient to keep the police department afloat –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
The Manchester Village Council came under fire from frustrated residents Monday, March 6 after voting to disband the town’s police force, saying there was no money left to pay the department’s two remaining officers.
“We could have a million dollars in funds, but we can’t pull money from one department to pay for another,” Councilwoman Theresa Blythe told those gathered in the meeting hall of the town’s Community Building. “We’ve tried everything we can to keep our police department, but there is no money left to pay them.”
Mayor Robert Hilderbrand warned, “It’s going to be the wild west around here if we don’t have a police force.”
The 4-2 vote follows the council’s February decision to cut Chief Jeff Bowling’s employment status to part-time, a move Bowling contends was fueled by a personal vendetta against him on the part of some council members.
Residents voicing strong objections over the council’s decision asked who would be policing the town.
Council members said they would be relying on the Sheriff’s Office and the State Highway Patrol.
“How are you going to pay the Sheriff’s Office if there’s no money?” Chief Bowling asked the council.
One man’s suggestion that council members could ease the town’s financial problems by giving up all but one dollar of their pay led to a heated exchange with Councilwoman Blythe who fired back, asking, “Why don’t you donate part of your own paycheck?”
There was some discussion about forming a neighborhood watch, but it ended when a second man asked, “What good is a neighborhood watch if you don’t have anyone to call for help?”
Council members said they are planning to put a new, larger Police Levy on the November ballot.
“Our levy has never been sufficient to run a full-time police department,” said Councilman Skip Wagner. “We’ve had a levy that’s $48,000 a year, and we’ve given roughly $10-15,000 a year out of the General Fund to the police department. We can no longer continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. The fact is, without a higher base, we’re going to keep having this problem for decades.”
Residents demanded to know what they should do if they needed police protection.
Chief Bowling drew applause from the room when he said, “I’m a certified police officer, if any of you need help, you can call me, and I will be there.”