By Amanda Ensinger
Drug offenses and overdoses are on the rise in the area and Franklin Township officials are looking at ways to alleviate the issues.
At a recent board meeting, Deputy Jason Ronk, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, reported that there has been an increase in drug activity.
“In the past two weeks, we have had at least 21 drug related calls,” he said. “Some of those have been overdoses.”
Drug trafficking and overdoses have been an issue on the westside for years, and as the police department continues to struggle with reduced officers and its budget, it is difficult to keep up with the increase in activity.
Franklin Township Police Chief Byron Smith said this is one of the reasons the township needs to pass a police levy.
Smith said if a levy isn’t passed, they will not only not be able to proactively investigate issues like drug trafficking, robberies and other felony offenses, they also will lose about half of their current staff.
“We will lose a minimum of five officers,” he said. “We also will only be able to take priority runs and won’t be able to focus on the drug houses or other crime in the region.”
Smith said that the department needs to get this levy passed as soon as possible because they are already losing staff. He said they have lost several full-time officers. The department has 10 full-time officers, including the chief and two part-time officers. Previously, the department had 12 full-time officers and two part-time officers.
The township police and the sheriff’s office are encouraging residents to be mindful of what’s going on around them.
“Don’t start your cars (to warm up) and go back inside,” Ronk said. “That is a perfect opportunity for a bad guy to take your car.”
In other news, Franklin Township Fiscal Officer Mary Rhinehart clarified some information discussed at a previous meeting about hiring additional staff.
Recently, Rhinehart asked the board to approve the hiring of an additional full-time staff member for the fiscal office. The first time Rhinehart presented this, it was tabled due to financial concerns. Rhinehart presented it again at another meeting and it was approved.
During the discussion, trustee Aryeh Alex said he opposed the hiring because the fiscal office has more help than other departments.
Rhinehart wanted to clarify this argument.
“Our total staff cost less than one fireman for a year,” she said.
Rhinehart said she needed this position to keep up with notes from the board meeting and to perform other various tasks. The majority of the board agreed and approved hiring a full-time assistant fiscal officer for $17 an hour.
The township has stopped providing detailed board meeting notes on the website and now provides recordings of the meetings. The note taking was supposed to be a function of the new position.