Winlock looking into contracted police coverage
The Winlock City Council has agreed to explore possibly contracting out law enforcement services amid concerns over budget constraints and current levels of coverage.
Proposed during their Oct. 27 meeting by Council Member Aaron Mummert, he said a contract for services had been brought up as a cost-saving strategy during recent conversations he has had with local residents, and told the council he would like approval to begin researching options.
"I'm just asking to look into it," he said. "If the city could save money and if they could get more service...that's why I'm asking if we could look into it."
Officials said they would be in favor of at least exploring the idea, with Council Member Barbara Pedersen stating, "It's not harmful to gather information."
But Council Member Jerry Rader said he was concerned such efforts would not result in any feasible options for the city, stating he has seen similar efforts fail to achieve success in the past.
"It's been tried with Vader and other places and it hasn't worked," he said, referencing Vader's recent need to contract for law enforcement services, first with Winlock in 2012 then with the Lewis County Sheriff's Office since 2013, after their police department was dissolved at the end of 2011 when former chief Sean Uhlich resigned.
(Vader is currently receiving 16 hours of regular patrols per week from the Sheriff's Office, as well as response to emergency calls, at a rate of $55 per hour, according to city staff.)
One of the issues Mummert said he would like to see addressed while researching options was the possibility of increasing the hours of coverage provided by law enforcement. He noted Winlock's two full-time officers are each scheduled for four 10-hour shifts during the week and said he would like to look at possibly increasing that coverage to as much 18 hours per day.
City Attorney Erin Hillier said, if Winlock wished to pursue such options, they would need to examine the officers' union contract beforehand to ensure services from another agency would be allowed, stating she had received a copy of the contract and would be reviewing it to determine what steps the city would need to take.
When asked to approve looking into the issue, the council voted 3-1-1 in favor, with Rader voting against the idea and Council Member Sam Patrick abstaining as his employment with the Toledo Police Department could produce a conflict of interest.
When asked for his department's perspective on the issue, Police Chief Terry Williams stated afterward he is not currently involved in any such discussions and said he had not been approached by officials prior to the council meeting with the idea of contracting services, nor had he been aware they were concerned about the level of coverage his department provides. He noted, while his full-time officers are scheduled for 80 hours per week, they also provide on-call services 24-7, while an additional six reserve officers are able to assist with coverage according to their availability and level of training.