Franklin Township police chief to step down


By Amanda Amsel
Staff Writer

At a recent board meeting, Franklin Township Police Chief Al Wheeler announced his resignation.

Wheeler, who has led the department for two and half years, will resign as chief of the department, effective at the end of the month.

“I have been offered another opportunity that is beneficial to the enhancement of my career,” he said. “The failure of the levy had nothing to do with this decision; in fact I stayed on after I was offered the position to try to help the levy get passed.”

The township unsuccessfully tried to get a 3.91-mil permanent levy passed in an effort to restore police staffing. If the levy had passed, it would have generated $585,000 a year for the police department and cost taxpayers $137.20 a year per $100,000 home. However, the levy failed.

As a result of the levy failing, the department laid off two officers. Wheeler said if he had not resigned, they would have had to lay off an additional officer.

Wheeler is the second police chief to leave the department in five years. His predecessor left the department after two years.

“The position was different than what I was originally told,” Wheeler said. “Financing is a big issue; when I took the position, I was told I had a certain amount of dollars, but that ended up not being an accurate number.”

Wheeler also said the fact that the department only creates reports and that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office actually does the investigations in the township is frustrating.

Wheeler volunteered to be an unpaid reserve deputy chief until a new chief is named. However, he said he anticipated that Sergeant Byron Smith would act as the temporary chief until a replacement is named.

“I care a great deal about this township and administrative work is still going to need to be done,” he said. “I am more than happy to help this community until the trustees decide what they want to do with this police department.”

At the end of the year, the department will go down to four full-time officers, including the police chief. As a result, they will operate one shift seven days a week.

“The sheriff has been putting serious pressure on us to decide how we want to proceed,” Wheeler said. “Of course they wanted our levy to pass, but now that it hasn’t, the trustees need to decide what they are going to do.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department has said they are open to contracting their services to the township and dissolving the police department, however trustees Don Cook and John Fleshman have said they are opposed to this. Trustee Tim Guyton said he supports this.

The trustees thanked Wheeler.

“Thank you for your service to the township,” Fleshman said. “I know you worked really hard for this community and you also tried your hardest to get the levy passed. I wish you the best of luck in the future.”

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