The Canal Winchester Times

Madison trustee, residents push for police reserves

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Madison Township trustee Gary McDonald and residents of Blacklick Estates are continuing to press for the formation of a police reserve program.

Several residents spoke in favor of the program during the Feb. 20 trustees' meeting and delivered a petition of support containing about 210 signatures.

Trustees agreed unanimously in December to approve a temporary budget for 2013, with the stipulation that a decision about implementing a new police reserve program be delayed until the township receives actual revenue numbers from the county.

However, McDonald and his supporters continue to argue that the timeline for reviewing and implementing a reserve program should be moved up.

Police Chief Greg Ryan said he has been in talks with his captain and sergeants about what such a program might look like and associated expenses, but can't make any decisions until he knows what the revenue numbers will be.

"I've enlisted the help of my sergeants and captain and at some point soon will get info from our administrator about the money coming in so we can see what we can do," Ryan said.

"I've done this a long time and I know that I have to meet a budget. It is against the law for me to go in the red."

Ryan also explained that it might be more beneficial to hire an additional full-time officer instead, because he wouldn't have authority to mandate scheduling over the volunteers in a police reserve program.

Trustee Ed Dildine agreed with Ryan, explaining that the program isn't free, as some residents have suggested. He pointed out that there is a cost for training, uniforms and other equipment as well as administration of the program.

"Do you have the impression that the board won't bring this back up? Because we will when we get the final budget," Dildine said.

"This might be a very good program, but I don't know what the cost of this is, and I don't think (trustee Victor Paini or McDonald) do, either. We're going to get the numbers and go from there."

McDonald argued that his vote in favor of a temporary budget was not an approval of the stipulation that the reserve officer program decision wait until March.

"Just because I approved the budget does not mean I approved their stipulation to wait until the March amended tax certificate," McDonald said. "If Chief Ryan wants to hire another full-time officer and can't afford reserves, how is this possible under the current budget proposal? The drug fund is available for use towards a reserve program, however."

According to McDonald, a drug trust fund of about $30,000 is available for things such as the police reserve program, but not for officer salaries or benefits, and he would like it used for this program.

Residents Daniel and Pat Caldwell said thought felt the terms of the 2010 levy -- for more officers and new equipment -- were not being honored.

Trustee Victor Paini disagreed.

"Part of the intent of the 2010 levy was to buy new equipment, and that's what we've done, replacing some of the cruisers and equipment that was at the end of its usefulness," Paini responded. "At the end of 2009, we had 13 full-time police officers and at the end of last year, we had 17.

"It's not that we don't want to do the reserve program but we need to see what the budget will allow for," he said. "There's a lot that goes into a program like this so we don't want to make a rash decision."

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