Oxford Twp. trustees vote to keep control of police department

Trustees voted to keep control of the Oxford Twp. Police Dept. rather than contract the service out to the City of Oxford’s department or Butler Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

The decision followed months of discussion about the department in the wake of the death of Chief Michael Goins. The township received police service proposals from the City of Oxford and the BCSD. Trustees held a public meeting Nov. 30 to explain the situation to residents and seek their comments. In addition to that in-person meeting in the Talawanda High School’s Performing Arts Center, trustees sent a survey to all residents of the unincorporated area of the township polling their preferences.

The vote by the trustees on Monday was 2-1 in favor of keeping control of the department.

Comments at the public meeting were largely in favor of keeping control of the police department and trustee Norma Pennock Monday presented the survey numbers.

She said they had received 240 household responses to the survey, representing 371 individuals. Of those, 210 favored keeping the township police department with 120 preferring to contract for service with the city and 23 indicating a preference for the Sheriff’s Department option.

A fourth option was to eliminate the three existing police service tax levies and not contracting with either entity. That would mean the Sheriff’s Department would be required to patrol the township, but would not give priority in response to calls. That option had only 16 residents in favor of it.

“I myself made a commitment some time ago to go with the majority of residents,” Pennock said.

Trustee chairman Gary Salmon also voted in favor of keeping a township police department. He said he thought hard about the decision since that public meeting but he has also thought a lot about the past trustees who formed the police department — Sam Woodruff, George Simonds and Jim McDonough.

“They were conservative and would not start it without good reason,” Salmon said. “They thought what they gave to the community was important. I think this board should go with that.”

The dissenting vote came from Kate Rousmaniere, who said she favored contracting with the City of Oxford Police Division because of the existing connections between the city and township and also because it would provide a better wage for officers responsible for the township.

“I am on three boards which receive dollars from the city every year and make no distinction between residents who are in the city or the township — the Coalition for a Healthy Community, the Family Resource Center and Oxford Seniors,” she said, noting that city residents are also township residents. Those within the city pay .24 inside millage to township operations and the township already contracts with the city for fire and EMS coverage. “At least six city police officers live in the township and park their cars there and many have worked in the township.”

Rousmaniere said current township officers who are hired by the city would receive an immediate pay increase and the township would receive an increase in available services including detective services, K-9, legal support and others.

“I worry that we are financially healthy now on the backs of our police,” she said citing Ross Twp. starting pay at $22 an hour. “Our constables’ starting wage is $12.50 an hour, most make more but not a lot. If we average our wages at $15 that is still among the lowest in the county.”

She noted City of Oxford starting police salary is $31.72 an hour for full-time officers and $30 for part-time.

“We will need a really big levy increase to double our constables’ wages from an estimate of $15 for $31.72. Or, we contract with the city, our contribution of $460,000 would automatically double our police wages,” Rousmaniere said. “And if we contract with the city, those police might already live in the township or already have experience in the township.”

Pennock made the motion to move forward with maintaining the township police department and move immediately to hiring a new chief. After it passed 2-1, the trustees considered the hiring of a chief and are advertising the opening on their web site as well as with the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police. Deadline for applications will be 3 p.m. on January 7.

They also discussed having a retired police officer living in the township to be part of a search committee to review applications.

Later in the meeting, they discussed salary adjustments for all township employees, setting a percentage increase for road crew employees and a separate discussion on increases for police constables. Following a long discussion, they settled on increased pay rates for any new hires and a percentage increase for current constables based on years of service and experience.

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