By Linda Dillman
Madison Township Police Chief Gary York is assuring residents that, despite concerns about the coronavirus and police protection, the township is still able to provide minimum staffing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During the July 14 Madison Township trustee meeting, York said staffing levels are sometimes higher than the minimum on some days. However, the department could experience a shortfall in revenue due to the impact of COVID-19.
In response to a question raised by resident Debbie Miller, Chairman John Pritchard said now is not the time to consider hiring additional law enforcement personnel.
“At this point, we cannot take the chance with COVID to hire new officers,” said Pritchard. “It is a very tight budget and we do the best we can with what we have. It would be irresponsible to hire police officers at this point because we don’t know what our settlement will be.”
According to Fiscal Officer Laurie Vermeer, nearly 100 percent of the police department budget is funded by taxes. She said the township normally gets two settlements a year for real estate taxes, but the situation could change.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get a second settlement,” said Vermeer. “People are hurting. I have no idea about what the rest of the year holds.”
Trustee Michele Reynolds said many state and local governments are impacted in the same way and there is a hiring freeze at the state level.
“What’s most important in public safety is knowing we can cover the needs,” said Reynolds.
Fire Chief Derek Robinson is scaling back a budget line item intended to replace five smaller staff vehicles.
“Obviously with the pandemic going on and fiscal responsibility, we’d like to replace three and put two off to next year,” said Robinson, who said the replacements are necessary due to wear and tear and repairs greater than a vehicle’s value.
While the number of township police officers may not change, 11 officers will no longer have to share eight body-worn cameras. York said a decision was made to purchase four cameras, which the chief said will allow for better equipment accountability.
“At the end of the day, I think body-worn cameras have really worked out for the department,” said York.