Johnstown Independent

Johnstown's police staffing

Councilman: Eight officers 'not enough'

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Johnstown Village Council member Kevin Riffe expressed concern over a proposal for the 2013 budget, which suggests not to replace two police officers as a money-saving measure.

If approved, the village would have only eight full-time officers.

"In my opinion, that's not enough," Riffe said.

He said he is satisfied, however, that the village intends to review police department staffing and that one or both of the positions could be replaced later.

In the past 12 months, four Johnstown police officers have left the department, and two were replaced. The village was going to replace one, but a fourth officer just left, so council did not replace the two open positions in an effort to save money. No one was fired from the department; the open positions simply weren't filled.

"At this point, I'm working with the police department to make sure we are using our staff as efficiently as possible," Village Manager Jim Lenner said. "We have not included the two additional officers in the 2013 budget, but that doesn't mean we can't add them sometime next year. I'm to report to council with my recommendation, based on analysis of our police staff."

Riffe said council and administrators are studying the budget closely.

"We are taking a little step back and re-evaluating the budget and staffing," he said. "Nothing's in concrete now."

He said budgeting for eight officers really doesn't affect village residents' safety, but he is concerned for the safety of the officers as they cover their shifts.

"We need to make sure our community is safe," Mayor Sean Staneart said. "We're looking at an overview (of the police department's schedule) and seeing where we can make improvements. It probably hasn't been done for quite some time."

Staneart said the police-schedule analysis includes the safety of the public and the officers. Staneart said he wasn't sure how long the analysis would take and that hiring part-time officers also could be considered.

In other news, according to the village's website, Johnstown has extended its contract with Big "O" Refuse for three years. Collection rates will increase by 3 percent and are locked in for the life of the contract. The increase equals 30 cents per month for regular customers and 25 cents per month for seniors.

According to the site, this increase is similar to what other communities have negotiated. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the rates will be $14.75 per month for regular households and $13.25 per month for seniors.

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