The Etna Township trustees met July 16 to consider proposing a dedicated property-tax levy to pay for a sheriff's deputy to patrol solely within the township boundaries.

The Etna Township trustees met July 16 to consider proposing a dedicated property-tax levy to pay for a sheriff's deputy to patrol solely within the township boundaries.

Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said that no one in the county is currently paying for dedicated patrols, but he does have occasional inquiries.

Trustee John Carlisle estimated the cost at $80,000 to $90,000 annually.

"What you get when you contract with the sheriff's office is service over and above what you get now," Thorp said. "Obviously we provide law enforcement services for Etna Township, deputies on patrol, the services of our detective bureau, the services of our SWAT team if you should need that, all those things that come with a full service sheriff's office, you are currently getting.

"You may ask, 'why should I contract if I'm already getting all those services?' What you get above that is a dedicated deputy or deputies, depending on the amount you want to contract for, specifically assigned to Etna Township, providing full-time law-enforcement services."

Thorp said sheriff's departments have seen the same budget cuts as other political subdivisions.

"Budgets are tight," Thorp said. "We do not have the number of deputies on patrol we had three, four, five years ago. We're working on ways to make that happen, but quite frankly, that's just the reality. I don't think our levels are unsafe, but they are not as high as I would like to see them."

Thorp said such special contracts are common throughout the state, though his office has not yet used them.

"It's done all around the state," Thorp said. "As far as I know, it's never been done in Licking County. It's a proposition our office would welcome."

One advantage of using the sheriff's department instead of establishing an independent force is that overhead cost is lower, Thorp said.

The township could also choose whether to establish 24-hour service or to focus on a particular shift.

"The only difference is, do you want a dedicated deputy for the township?" Thorp said.

Carlisle said any decision to contract for a deputy would require a property tax.

"We need to explore avenues," Carlisle said. "We'll have to get with the prosecuting attorney's office to prepare language for a levy."

Carlisle said a volunteer committee would probably be named to explore contract terms, with the goal of voting on a levy in 2012.

"We could put a measure on the ballot," Carlisle said. "We should be able to have something ready to go for the May primary."

Carlisle said he could not estimate what the millage would be, noting that it had been more than 20 years since Etna Township had its own property-tax levy in effect.

"The only levy I recall Etna Township ever having was a road levy in 1988, 1989," Carlisle said.

In other business, the trustees appointed Richard Knapp and Mark Schaff to the tax-incentive review council.