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Newton Falls, Newton Township seek joint police district

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Newton Falls village and Newton Township officials on Tuesday discuss plans for a proposed joint police district. From left are Newton Falls City Manager Pam Priddy, Mayor Ken Kline, Councilman John Baryak and Newton Trustee Chairman Pete Augusta.

NEWTON FALLS — Similar to a joint fire district already in place, Newton Falls village and Newton Township officials are working toward a joint police district.

Officials from both communities met Tuesday to explain the proposal and the process to get voter approval from the village and township.

Newton Trustee Chairman Pete Augusta said the township now uses the services of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office with two police levies that generate around $55,000 annually. Augusta said the township pays the sheriff’s department for an officer for so many hours per week and then relies on deputies on patrol for the rest.

“A joint police district will give the township 24-hour coverage with both communities contributing 50-50 and having an equal say,” he said.

City Manager Pam Priddy said the village already has the assets, such as police cruisers and police equipment, that would be used for the joint district. She said the village would handle finances for the district and get together a budget for operations.

“We are excited about this idea since Newton Falls has had issues with its police department,” Priddy said. “Our general fund is facing financial difficulties. We believe working together with the township, we will be able to bring the communities a better police service. Our police department is currently just for the village, but we want to extend it out to the township as well.”

Priddy said in recent weeks, officials have discussed the joint police district and put together a plan, including placing the issue on the November general election ballot.

Township trustees at a special meeting Tuesday asked the county auditor to determine the millage and amount needed to be raised for establishing a joint fire district. Village council will hold a special meeting 5 p.m. today to act on a similar resolution.

The joint district would serve 4,500 residents in the township and 4,500 in the village, officials said.

Priddy said if the voters turn down the idea, the township would remain with the sheriff’s office and the village likely would look at also going with the sheriff’s office.

Village Mayor Ken Kline praised the sheriff’s office for all it has done but noted it has the entire county to cover.

Augusta said with a joint district, response time will be much quicker compared to sheriff’s deputies, who may be in Kinsman or in northern or eastern parts of the county — when Newton Township is 45 minutes away.

“The response time would increase tremendously with a local joint police district. This is a very good option for the township,” he said.

Augusta said the township does not have the budget to start its own police department. An attempt by the township to pass a police levy 10 years was defeated by voters.

Newton Falls Councilman John Baryak called the joint district a “win-win” for both communities and the plan allows the voters from the village and township to decide.

“This is history in the making in making sure we provide the citizens of the village and township with police protection,” Baryak said.

Priddy said while joint fire districts are common throughout the state, joint police districts are fewer in number but do exist.

If the joint police district were to be approved by voters, the village would need to dissolve the current police department, according to the village charter, officials said.

Officials said a plan would be developed for the number of police officers to cover all the shifts.

Priddy said the village does not have enough officers.

“Bringing the two communities together will be a benefit for everyone,” she said.

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