LAKEMORE After nearly a decade, the Village of Lakemore is reinstating its full-time police department.
The village's contract with the Springfield Police Department ends Monday, marking the rebirth of the Lakemore Police Department.
"The people wanted it back. That is really what brought this whole thing in motion," said Police Chief Ken Ray. "They like that personalized service. The community oriented policing."
Ray was Lakemore chief when the village contracted with Springfield Township for policing services in July of 2009 as the village entered into fiscal emergency. Ray then became a captain in the Springfield Department.
"Springfield worked out great for us, it was a lifesaver for us," said Ray.
The structure of the department will be designed differently than it was in 2009 for economic reasons The new structure has a reduction of full-time officers. Previously, the department had eight full time employees. Now, there will be three full time officers Ray, Sgt. John Smith and Sgt. Dawson Wise. Also, it will have a full time administrative assistant, Gwen Erskine. In addition, there will be seven part-time patrolmen and a reserve program, in which reservists will volunteer 16 hours a month.
Fiscal Officer Tracy Fast estimates restarting and restructuring the department will cost the township about $100,000 less than what it was paying through its contract with Springfield. The contract with Springfield was $547,000 for 2017 for labor only. On top of that cost, the village would be paying for things such as a cruiser, dispatching, insurance and fuel.
Justice said officlas estimate the reborn Lakemore department will cost $490,000 a year. Another plus, he says, is that employees would now be working in the village and paying income tax to the village rather than Akron. Two percent of the payroll will come back to Lakemore, which Ray estimates will cover the cost of utilities for the department.
Justice said he is often asked why the village is restarting the department when the contract with Springfield cost less than having a department previously.
"That was true, at that time, but now with the change in the way we are doing things, we are going to save money," said Justice. "We are going to save money, get the advantage of our officers being able to focus on the village itself and be more approachable for our residents."
Having its own department, according to Ray, allows the village to do a few extras. For example, Ray said, the department can get a little more involved with zoning issues, which Springfield Police didn't have time to focus on. Ray also said that by knowing the people in the community will allow for him to go talk to them.
"It helps," he said. "Gaining the trust of the people is important as well. We have always been a close knit community."
"When you take care of zoning, in the long run, you prevent crime," added Justice.
Justice said the visibility of the officers helps to make people feel more comfortable. The new department will double the visibility of officers on the streets as it has three cruisers and the goal is to have two officers on the road at all times.
Salaries for full time officers was brought up to the level of the Springfield Police Department to help with retention. Ray said it was difficult to keep even full time employees at the salary level of the earlier department.
Justice pointed out that the police building is now paid for, which was costing the village $63,000 a year previously.
Lakemore has applied for a Cops Fast Grant that would cover the cost of a full-time officer for three years, lessening the need for part-time.
Justice also said being able to bring Smith aboard was a major get. Smith is the resource officer at Springfield Junior/Senior High School and is a former Springfield chief. He will continue in his capacity with the school.
"It is like any owner of a football team, we needed to recruit him," Justice said. "He comes with the chief experience."
Wise was an officer with the previous Lakemore Police Department, went to Springfield when the contract began and now is returning as a seargant.
Springfield Police Chief David Hoover said that with Lakemore Village starting their own department again, it will certainly affect his department's bottom line
"Losing the contract, along with the recent failure of the police levy, the department is facing a financial hardship," he said. "Unfortunately, because of the current situation, we will lose five full-time Officers in June - two officers will be taking full-time positions with Lakemore, two officers will lose their full-time positions and one officer will retire and not be replaced due to financial constraints. It puts the department full-time officer numbers at their lowest since the 1980s.
"Obviously, we wish Lakemore the very best with their new police department. Our department and its officers will continue to back up and support Lakemore’s officers, just as we did before the contract. Chief Ken Ray is a veteran officer with many years of experience and will surely be able to provide the citizen’s of Lakemore the very best possible service."
Springfield Trustee Dean Young said he was happy that the township had such a cooperative arrangement that "benefited them and benefited us."
"I wasn't happy to see them leave, but it is really their decision and I think they have to decide for their village residents what they want," he said.
Lakemore, according to Justice, simply had to do what officials believed was best for their community.
"In 2009 the best choice for us was to contract," he said. "In 2017 the best choice for us is to have our own department. We are all going to continue to work together. We have one school system, basically one community and we have to help each other out. We will be there for them and they will be here for us."