Hubbard Township idles part-time officers

HUBBARD — Township trustees voted Monday to idle all seven part-time police officers during the department’s financial crisis rather than laying them off.

“Layoffs have become commonplace here in the Valley. It’s ridiculous,” Trustee chairman Fred Hanley said. “Layoffs would hurt the community more than they’d help the cause.”

At Monday night’s meeting, trustees shared the options for the police department, which were discussed with the police union in executive session. The department employs seven full-time officers.

According to Trustee Richard Hernandez, the department will be in the red at the end of the year with no money to carry over and no money coming in until May.

“As you know, the levy that was passed, unfortunately it was not passed on the first round, so we don’t receive the monies until May. So those monies — and when they do come in — will be delegated 100 percent to where we’re going to be in the shortfall,” Hernandez said.

Trustees asked voters in November 2018 to approve a 1.75-mill additional levy for the department, but it was defeated. Had it passed then, the township would have been able to use the funding in March, instead of waiting until April 2020. The levy, which was passed in May, will raise about $156,000 per year.

Earlier this year, trustees took out a $200,000 loan to pay the officers and have been cutting expenses to keep police operations going. But with four police cars needing repairs and loan payments, the money may not hold out despite the cuts.

“It is becoming more and more expensive to run a full-time department, and that’s a huge burden on taxpayers,” Hernandez said. “I don’t see any layoffs at this time.”

To cut spending, the department already has started enforcing a mandatory no-overtime policy, and at Monday’s meeting, it approved additional resolutions, including:

• A change in job description of the police administrative assistant;

• Return the Weathersfield Township drug car because of title issues for a full $3,000 refund;

• No officer layoffs, but will be idling part-time officers effective Sept. 1. Part-time officers may retain police commission, as long as they remain available for unscheduled township assignments;

• Revisions to the police car take-home policy. Full-time officers living within five square miles of the police district may take their car home at no cost, but officers living outside of that five-square-mile radius will be charged 58 cents per mile travel, both coming and going to work effective Sept. 1;

• Remove the officer assigned to the Trumbull County Drug Task Force and return him to the regular police work schedule, effective Aug. 26;

• Remove the detective assigned to the Trumbull County Homicide Task Force and assign him to township detective duties, effective immediately;

• Cancel all contracts that are deemed non-essential to the police function, including maintenance, body camera video storage and fingerprint scanning;

• Defer major maintenance on police vehicles with the exception of safety-related items;

• Accept a Ford Crown Victoria car, donated by Liberty Township interim police Chief Toby Meloro.

“We’re approaching $50,000 in savings by just this,” Hanley said.

Department officials said they hope to be able to bring back the part-time officers in May 2020 when the township gains access to the levy funds.

“I appreciate it, and I know my officers appreciate it,” Chief Todd Coonce said. “We’re blessed to have all of this backup, and I hope to bring the part-timers back in May, if not sooner.”

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