BROOKFIELD - In hopes of creating a "skinny Ohio," Brookfield has been approved for a $27,000 grant to explore the possibility of combining police forces with Hubbard city and township.
According to Brookfield police Chief Dan Faustino, the police chiefs have been discussing merging services for several years, but it wasn't until he discovered that the idea could be funded through the state auditor's skinnyOhio initiative that the ball got rolling.
Headed by Auditor of State Dave Yost, skinnyOhio.org helps state agencies and local governments streamline their operations. One way this is done is through performance audits.
"If you can do it without increasing cost or decreasing services," Faustino said, "you might as well look into it."
The grant for a police district consolidation feasibility study came from the Ohio Development Services Agency out of the Local Government Innovation Fund and was approved at the end of November.
Youngs-town State University will possibly lead the research to streamline the services delivery through the combination of the departments. Brookfield will receive the grant agreement in January to start the study, along with 20 percent of the grant upfront to pay the university. After a final draft is put together, the townships and city will be paid 50 percent. Once each area agrees on a final resolution, the remainder of the grant will be paid.
According to Brookfield trustee Gary Lees, the goal is to provide better police services while possibly reducing costs.
"It certainly isn't going to reduce staff," Lees said. "But it would be helpful in a very severe crisis situation to have backup."
Lees said the next step will be for the heads of the police departments to meet with state Rep. Sean O'Brien, D-Brookfield, and YSU representatives at the beginning of the new year.
Hubbard Township trustee Joe Gleydura said they are hoping to start the study up after their reorganizational meeting at the beginning of the year.
"Realistically, we're a small department, so when you start talking about consolidations, it has to be equitable for everyone,'' Gleydura said.
The three police departments, whose headquarters are all within six miles of each other, are hoping for beneficial results.
"We're all anxious here to see the outcome of the study," Hubbard Mayor John Darko said.
"With the cuts we are seeing from the state, we're hoping to enhance our service here and find some savings,'' Darko said.
"I think everyone's belts are tight," Faustino said. "And even if they're not, you have to look into it."