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Hubbard Twp. police sound off on equipment needs

HUBBARD — In the midst of the township trustees’ discussion about keeping the police department, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 85 said it wants to shed light on items that have been neglected.

“There are a few important things that the public needs to be made aware of in regards to the current situation with the Hubbard Township Police Department that I would like to address,” Sgt. Ron Fusco, FOP union steward, wrote in a letter sent to the newspaper.

“Cutting costs is one thing, but not updating equipment that is vital to the work that we do is unacceptable,” the letter states.

Trustee Rick Hernandez responded that he believes that the FOP is adding more and more onto their grievances and said they should be concerned with where the money for the payroll is coming from.

“The police department is down to about $24,000 to $26,000. That’s what we have to work with until April,” Hernandez said. “It’s getting very frustrating with the grievances. The union doesn’t want to talk to the trustees to come to an agreement.”

The FOP letter claims that the mobile data terminals expired Jan. 13 and that the Law Enforcement Data System requires that all MDT’s have Windows 10 operating system to function properly.

“The trustees have elected to not pay the $2,600 for these updates,” the letter states.

The radar units were supposed to be recertified by Sept. 27 and were not, Fusco said. The cost to recertify all the units is $700, he said.

Fusco stated that according to the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling, without certified radar units, the officers cannot issue speeding tickets as their visual estimation of speed is unaided.

The DataMaster blood-alcohol content machine has also been out of service since 2018, he claims. Repair cost would be $975, and replacement would run $7,000 to $8,000.

The Axon body cameras used by the officers are accruing storage costs, which can be avoided by going with a different company, he claims in the letter.

The FOP blame this neglect on the rehiring of Chief Todd Coonce and the secretary. Eliminating these costs would save the township $132,000 per year.

“All of this vital departmental equipment is being neglected and the trustees have continued to rehire the retired police chief since 2012,”

“The salaries of both the chief and the secretary, who are both ‘at-will,’ positions would be an estimated $11,000 a month savings for the department, $132,000 a year that could be used to not only keep the department running but to update equipment that is outdated or nonfunctional,” Fusco states in his letter.

Speaking for the township, Hernandez said that the money from the two levies passed back in May will start to come into the township in April and would go toward police department salaries and operations.

Hernandez said that the department had $104,000 to start the year, but after payroll, retirement fund payments and other bills, the money is quickly disappearing. He also stated that he has not talked to Coonce regarding the equipment cited in Fusco’s letter, but that the grievances keep piling up.

The trustees did make sure that each officer received a year-end check for a uniform allowance, which takes care of one grievance, he said.

Hernandez said the trustees will be meeting soon to discuss moving forward, especially when no money will be coming in until April. He also mentioned that, in order to keep the department, they may need to re-explore laying-off part-time officers.

The conciliation hearing has not yet been scheduled and the performance audit will not be ready for about three months.

bshiller@tribtoday.com

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