Portage cuts police chief’s hours by half


PORTAGE – The majority of village council voted Monday night to cut the police chief’s hours in half,
infuriating a crowd of about 50 residents and some employees.
“I hope I don’t get fired,” said Sue Kepling, mayor’s court clerk, “you guys are idiots.”
She said Chief Robert Bartz issued 75 percent of the tickets, thus bringing in most of the revenue for
the department.
“You get rid of the most-producing one? Where is your brain?” Kepling said.
“I guess I want to thank council for cutting my income in half,” said a shocked Bartz. He said he would
have trouble coming up with officers to cover the daytime shifts in Portage.
“I’m flabbergasted,” the chief said.
The vote came after Council President Jay Sockman said the police department had lost $1,317 in May,
“which is a lot better than $7,000 which it’s been in past, previous months.”
He then made a motion to cut Chief Bob Bartz’s hours from 40 to 20. Bartz is not considered full time,
since the village doesn’t pay him benefits. There are six part-time officers who work another 42 hours a
The motion passed with Tamara Sharp, Doug Maas and Sockman voting for it; Marcia Wolford and John Jividen
voted against it. Floyd Wilson was absent.
Mayor Mark Wolford said he was against cutting Bartz’s hours, but did not have a vote.
Marcia Wolford said the finance committee should do better research and come up with other solutions than
cutting Bartz’s hours. She questioned who would do the department’s administrative work, which Bartz
spends about 25 hours a week on.
But the three council members who voted for to cut the chief’s hours said they were compromising on a
proposal by Clerk-Treasurer Bruce Shepherd to disband the entire department.
After the two-hour meeting, they said the village owes $40,000 on a sewer loan at the end of the year and
there currently is less than that in the savings.
“Cutting hours was our compromise,” Maas said.
“We’re in dire financial straits and the police department is costing us a lot of money,” Sharp said. “By
law we are responsible to keep this village running financially. That is our job.”
The police department lost $14,000 in 2007 and $50,000 in 2008, she said.
Sharp said the council members didn’t feel like they could explain their actions during the meeting
because of the “free-for-all” atmosphere.
Sgt. Scott Herrick, who’s been with the Portage police for six years, offered to resign if Bartz could
keep his job.
Earlier in the meeting, Gary Deutschman asked how council could consider cutting the police department
when it had just purchased an $18,000 lawnmower.
“We need to keep the police department intact,” he said.
The department is here to protect and serve, not generate money, Deutschman added.
Rose Yoder said reminded council of the 1 percent income tax it had enacted in January; it should collect
about $60,000 annually. She said she’d like to see her dollars fund the police operations.
“You kind of went against what the majority of people want,” Yoder said.
Linda Glomski suggested starting a petition to get the police chief’s hours back on council’s agenda.
Kristen Wetzel said the petition should be to recall the income tax instead, since residents are being
taxed more but their services are being cut.
Council has been studying the police department budget for several weeks, since it was put into fiscal
emergency by the state auditor in April.

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