Portage patrolling pulled over
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Written by By DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 09:53
PORTAGE - The semi hauling new cars came roaring through the village, clocked at 57 mph. The speed limit downtown at that time was 25 mph.
|Portage Police Chief Bob Bartz. Due to extreme cuts in the village and the state fiscal emergency, the police department is being eliminated. 11/5/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
When pulled over by Police Chief Bob Bartz, the trucker said he simply didn't notice that he was coming through this tiny village of 400 people south of Bowling Green. "A lot of people see us as a blip on the highway and don't slow down," said Bartz, who is 46.
That's just one of the hundreds of speeding cases he has logged during his five years patrolling Portage, with the last two as chief.
Bartz's tenure - and probably most of the speed stops - is about to come to an end. Due to severe financial problems, the village is closing the police department as of Dec. 31. The Wood County Sheriff's Office will handle 911 calls for Portage.
The village has a reputation as a "speed trap," but Bartz said residents will truly miss the regular patrols for safety reasons. Truckers, he said, regularly try to bypass weigh stations on Interstate 75 by traveling through Portage down Ohio 25.
He added that he's never written a speeding ticket that hasn't been for at least 10 mph over the limit. His most blatant violator was driving 40 mph over the 25 mph speed limit.
"People say we're a speed trap. If people just obey the law while going through town, they don't have anything to worry about, and that's anywhere."
Bartz said he wanted to be a police officer ever since he was a kid. He attended Lima Technical College but left school when an opening came up at the Putnam County Sheriff's Department.
He's also been an officer in Leipsic and McClure. "I like small towns. I grew up in a small town, Columbus Grove," he said.
Bartz started as a Portage patrolman in June 2004, hired by his good friend, Al Baer, who is now chief of police in North Baltimore. The two have known each other since 1989 when they worked in Napoleon, where Bartz still lives.
Baer expects Bartz will land on his feet and land a job as a full-time officer. Bartz has already been hired part time in North Baltimore.
"He has the personality for it. He's a good leader," Baer said of Bartz.
Baer spent seven years working in Portage and said it's hard to believe the village won't have regular police patrols.
"I think that speeds will definitely increase through the village. It's going to be hard to back out of your driveway (off Route 25)," Baer said.
Bartz agreed that the lack of local police patrols will be obvious for residents, especially when the town traffic signal is converted to a pedestrian light.
"I think they're going to notice the traffic flying through here," he said. "I hope that's all they do is notice it and there are no accidents."
The signal is expected to change this spring.
"The light's going to scare me the most and we won't be here for that changeover."
Bartz brushes off personal concerns about being out of work.
"I'm not the only guy who's been unemployed ever," he said, adding that his family, which includes a 16-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, is lucky. His wife, Lynne, has a secure job as a nurse. "I look at it, that I can spend more time with my kids. How can you go wrong with that?"
He also declines to play politics and discuss any blame for the village's financial situation. The state auditor's office put Portage into fiscal emergency in April and the village is expected to have a deficit of $128,822 at the end of this year.
"I don't know the ins and outs of why we're in such financial problems now," Bartz said.
As council cut his hours this summer, then restored them, then cut the entire department, the chief remained stoic and had little to say during some heated meetings.
"It doesn't do any good to scream and shout," Bartz said.
He said he first got wind of money constraints a couple years ago when council asked the department to get authorization before any purchases were made. That was followed by a spending freeze.
"But I didn't know it was getting to the point of closing the doors Dec. 31."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 November 2009 10:51