Police coverage continues to be concern for Francesville
Pulaski County Sheriff Jeff Richwine gave Francesville Town Councilmen a little direction as they try to decide if they want to hire a new town marshal.
During a regular meeting on Jan. 19, councilmen Andy Durham and Kyle Trent discussed what would be the best option for the town to take in regards to police coverage.
The town has been without a town marshal since August of 2014 and has been relying on the sheriff’s department officers to patrol the area.
Coverage for the area has been slighted because the sheriff’s department has seen a large overturn of officers. Richwine said the department is at full staff but four of the deputies will soon be headed to the police academy for training.
Durham said there seems to be some interest in the marshal position but the council wanted to speak with Richwine to see if there were other options such as contracting coverage through the county or sharing an officer.
Richwine said he spoke with the deputies and two of them are interested in helping, but “I guess I can’t really give you a promise that they are going to come because it is volunteering for them. I can’t order them to come over and work. We can set up a schedule to make sure that the deputies come through here on their patrols to help out.”
At this time Richwine said he can’t give them a commitment. He did say that he is open to sharing a deputy but he’s not sure that they can force someone to live in the town of Francesville.
“There would be other people involved in that decision, that would be the commissioners and the council, but I would be willing to discuss that,” Richwine said.
The idea would be that the town would help fund an officer that would cover Francesville but also work for the county. As discussion continued, it appeared to the councilmen that it could be next year before a contracted officer could be a reality.
Durham said trying to schedule officers for a year wouldn’t help the town. Trent is concerned that if they hire someone that person may still have to go through the academy which will take more time.
“The problem I have with part-time people is if they’re working for another department and then something goes on and they take our vehicle to back up their guys — who’s liable for their actions while they are doing what they are doing? That’s the piece that kind of makes me leery,” Trent said. “If we were contracted through the county and if they had to go cover a county call — they are a county officer.”
Trent said he is also concerned that a new officer needs to have a good working relationship with the sheriff’s department.
“The thing that scares me is just turning them loose out there and not having a clue what they are doing. When I came into it, I had other people to work with. I had people at the county that I could depend on, who helped show me the way,” he said.
Richwine said future Francesville officers are welcome to train with the sheriff’s department. “That does a lot of things. That will put him in the circle of trust.”
Durham thinks that they need to see who is interested. He doesn’t have a problem continuing with the contracting idea but he’s concerned with the lack of coverage that is happening now.
Trent said if the town is going to hire someone then they need to create a job description that will help ensure the right officer is being hired.
“You don’t have a large pool to draw from. You will either find somebody you don’t want or you end up with someone you like but they don’t stay,” Trent said.
It was suggested that the town attorney look over the job description and a contract.
Clerk-treasurer Linda Bennett said former Pulaski County Sheriff Mike Gayer would be interested in working part-time. Durham told Bennett to contact Gayer and see if he is still interested in helping.
Councilwoman Pamela Antrim was not at the meeting.
In other business:
• Minutes from the Jan. 5 regular meeting were approved.
• Street superintendent Lynn Johns reminds drivers that when snow is being removed from the downtown area to be aware of the plows and equipment. Vehicles should avoid being in the same area as the equipment because it slows the process and causes safety issues. Town employees try to remove the snow at 5 or 6 a.m. and have had issues with trying to work around vehicles.
• Clerk-treasurer Linda Bennett asked the council if there is a way to help a woman whose water bill was overwhelming because of an unknown leak. The leak was found by town employees and water was running into a tile undetected. She approached Bennett to see if she could work something out with the town in regards to her bill that was more than $1,000 compared to the monthly average she uses. Bennett said other towns have an amnesty for issues such as this. The customer would pay what they typically pay and the rest would be written off. Durham said if it can be legally done, he doesn’t have a problem with it. He does not feel there was an issue of neglect by the resident because she would not have known about it until she received a bill. Bennett said she will further research it. Trent said as long as it can be done fairly he doesn’t have a problem with it.
• Quotes for snowplows were presented to the council for review in the hopes of preparing for the purchase in the budget next year. The town would like to replace two plows because they are not in good shape. No action was taken.
• A motion to purchase a security camera that will monitor the recycling trailer area was approved. The camera system will cost about $500 and will be installed by the town.
• Johns said they would like to see hand tools and other equipment that they use on a regular basis equipped on the new truck. Many times employees have to return to the shop while working on a project in town to get the equipment they need such as screwdrivers and wrenches. They would like to see one set of tools on the truck and the other tools to be left at the shop. Bennett said there is some funding in the budget for tools and additional money can be taken from the utility funds.
• Claims were approved.