Portage to decide fate of police department


PORTAGE – The fate of the village police department could be decided at the next council meeting on June
At Monday’s meeting, council again discussed the department which, according to the clerk-treasurer’s
figures, is losing thousands of dollars a month.
"It is a fact that we are losing a whole bunch of money," said Councilwoman Tamara Sharp.
Mayor Mark Wolford said he believes there are some discrepancies in the numbers.
"I’m still confused about how there can be such a huge loss all of a sudden," he said.
The mayor questioned how the department’s costs were approximately $153,000 in 2008 and $40,000 more this
year. He pointed out that officers’ hours have been cut and no raises have been given.
"How can it cost us that much more?" Wolford said.
Sharp said council was delaying the inevitable, much like the request from the Ohio Department of
Transportation to remove the traffic light in Portage. Council on Monday also tabled that issue until
June 15.
"Putting it off and putting if off. In this case, you’re putting it off based on evidence supplied
by the village treasurer," she said.
The burden for proving the numbers wrong should be put on the mayor and anyone else who disagreed, Sharp
"I believe we are losing money. You can look at the checking balance and see we are losing
money," she said.
Council President Jay Sockman said there was a balance of about $24,000 in the village checking account.

"We’ve got to deal with what’s going on now and according to these numbers we need to do
something," he said.
After the meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Bruce Shepherd said the balance as of today was $46,372. "The
bottom line is every month we’re a little less," he said.
The state auditor’s office put Portage under fiscal emergency in April after it showed deficit balances
in the general fund and streets, totaling $135,000 this year and $119,000 in 2008.
At a council meeting last month, Shepherd detailed the police department deficits. In January, the losses
were $8,188; in February it was $6,111; in March, where there was a worker’s compensation payment, the
total was $14,499, and in April it was $4,660. The reports were generated in conjunction with auditors.

Wolford said his research shows steady police activity since 2007. His numbers say officers have about
110 total traffic cases a month and bring in about $7,000 in revenue.
"I love the police department," Sockman said. "But having a $5,000 loss is not good when
we’re hurting."
He suggested waiting for the May numbers and talking about it more at the June 15 council meeting.
Wolford suggested that Sockman talk to Portage residents who, he said, want a police department.
"But we can’t spend ourselves into a hole," Sharp said. "Without a special levy for the
police department I don’t believe we can spend thousands of dollars on it month after month."
Sockman said he has talked to residents about police "and they say boot ’em."
Councilman John Jividen said they must not lose sight of the police department’s role.
"We can kick numbers around all we want to, but the purpose of a police department is protection,
not revenue-making," he said.
Portage has a police chief who works 40 hours a week, but is not considered full time and is not paid
benefits. There are six part-time officers who patrol another 52 hours a week.
In another police-related issue, Sharp said Village Administrator Ron Sharp talked with the Wood County
Sheriff and the village would not be charged a fee if it has to disband the police department, then
start it again and require dispatching.

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