Deputies will police village in lieu of police department –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
The Manchester Village Council’s decision to disband the town’s police force drew sharp criticism from concerned residents during Monday’s village council meeting, prompting Mayor Robert Hilderbrand to -declare “It’s going to be the Wild West around here if we don’t have a police force”.
According to Councilman C.L.”Skip” Wagner the citizens’ concerns were alleviated Tuesday as Adams County Sheriff’s deputies made it clear they would be stepping in as a law-enforcement presence in the town.
“I think the people in Manchester were pleasantly surprised when they woke up Tuesday morning and there were two deputies in town,” said Wagner. “For the foreseeable future they will continue to be in town to protect our citizens.”
Pointing out that none of the county’s villages have a 24-hour police presence, Sheriff Kimmy Rogers said his office would be setting up an outpost in the area to accommodate deputies policing the area.
“We have a couple of deputies who live in the area and they’ll be working out of that office,” Rogers said.
Wagner called the assist from the Sheriff’s office “a light at the end of the tunnel” for those who opposed disbanding the police department.
“Nita Hanson, the owner of the local pool hall, personally told me she was pretty upset that we weren’t able to say what was going to happen,” Wagner said. “But when she came into work the next morning and saw the two deputies down here, she had a change of heart and could see we weren’t making a reckless decision.”
Councilman Brian Napier, who opposed disbanding the department, acknowledged that years of mismanagement had finally forced the council’s hand.
“For instance, money that was donated to run the K-9 Unit was never used for that purpose, and can’t be used for anything else,” Napier said. “Instead, money was taken out of the General Fund to support that department. It isn’t anyone who is currently serving that made those decisions, and we didn’t realize what bad shape we were in financially until Melinda Horsley started doing the books, and she told the police department it had to stop.”
The Council views the disbanding of the police department as their best opportunity to stabilize the town’s finances, “This action will allow us to regroup financially and be in a much better position starting off in the next fiscal year,” said Wagner. “Hopefully, the residents here in the town understand that.”
The council also said funding provided by the village’s police levy was inadequate and needed to be increased.
“I don’t like taxes anymore than anyone else, but our current levy is only $48,000 a year, and if anyone can tell me how to run a police department on that I’m all ears,” said Wagner. “We’ve been taking from the general fund to prop up the police department, and that had to stop.”
At present the town’s General Fund has only $8,400.66, according to Wagner.
“We had to pay down the debt the police department incurred last year which was above $90,000 – that’s where the levy went,” he said. “As of now, the police department is negative $7,142,84 – with bills still coming in from the department. The auditors made it very clear that if we did not have the police department from last year at least five cents in the black they were taking over. We could have kept running into the red, but how would that have served the people of Manchester if we did that and then the state took over and laid everyone off anyway?”
The council members say they are currently exploring other avenues to shore up money to insure that when the police department is brought back, it’s brought back on a healthy footing.