If New Miami loses a court battle with the state, officials say the police department will most likely be shuttered and the Butler County sheriff would provide protection, something villagers say is not optimal.
The village paused the lucrative speed cameras after a new law took effect last July that makes it financially impossible for the village to operate the cameras.
Village Solicitor Dennis Adams filed a suit in August that asked Judge Greg Howard for a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctions. He argued the new laws violate home rule rights to enforce traffic laws.
Howard issued his decision this week saying the state didn’t overstep its authority.
The village plans to appeal the decision but if the effort fails the village won’t have enough money to keep running its police department.
Mayor Stephanie Chandler has opposed the speed cameras but said she will support appealing Howard’s decision. However, she said the village must find other revenue sources long-term. She said she doesn’t know what those opportunities might be, but thinks with the huge Spooky Nook sports and convention complex coming just miles away in Hamilton and the new medical marijuana emporium open in Seven Mile, there might be some.
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“We’re sitting right in the middle of both, we’re in too good of a location to not do something,” Chandler said. “I’m okay with them filing an appeal but I think we need to start thinking outside the box here and looking at other ways to generate revenue.”
Chief Ross Gilbert tendered his resignation recently to pursue another career and that will leave only about three full-time officers protecting the village. Gilbert said he isn’t leaving because of the uncertain fate of the department, he got a job that was “just too hard to pass up.”
Henley said given the circumstances, the village will appoint an interim chief from within, because they understand it would be virtually impossible to hire anyone.
If the village has to close its cop shop the only other option for police protection would be the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff is responsible for providing police protection in areas where there are no independent law enforcement agencies.
Henley said the village has chosen to run its own police department because the council believes the residents deserve to have local laws enforced, such as “ordinances against raising cows in your backyard,” parking prohibitions monitored and other things local police can do.
“The sheriff is obligated to patrol the village, or respond to the village,” Henley said. “But they’re not obligated to enforce our ordinances or anything like that stuff. They enforce the state law.”
Henley said if they contracted with the sheriff it would be a different matter, but contract figures the sheriff quoted several years ago were almost as expensive as running their own department.
The 2020 village budget was not available.
The sheriff has contracts with College Corner and Hanover, Lemon and Liberty townships. Liberty pays $3 million for its own 24/7 outpost. The sheriff provides two deputies working in Hanover Twp. 40 hours a week for the deputies salaries and benefits, or about $185,000 annually. The other two jurisdictions do not have dedicated deputies.
Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said he is willing to discuss contracting with New Miami but, “the situation up there has been very fluid for many, many years and I don’t know our level of interest in contracting with them.”