BUTLER TWP. – The Butler Township Trustees voted 2-1 to enter into a contract for police services with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office on Monday evening.
The vote split along recent fault lines with Trustees Joe Flanagan and Nick Brusky voting in favor and Trustee Mike Lang voting against.
“We have to think outside the box,” said Brusky. “We have an obligation to provide for public safety at a reasonable cost. The Sheriff can provide services we could never provide.”
Lang countered that and said that residents wanted their own police department.
“What the Sheriff’s Office proposes is everything we do now but on a smaller scale,” said Lang. “We could make Lt. Guthrie our chief, don’t fill the lieutenant position, make up the savings and still maintain our locally controlled police department.”
Flanagan said that residents “haven’t wanted to pay” for services referring to failed police levies.
“I ran on a program to provide the highest level of service at the lowest cost,” he said. “We don’t provide the people these services now.”
The Township received three proposals from the Sheriff’s Office late last week and intended to discuss the proposals in executive session. The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, who advises the Township on some legal matters, told the Trustees that the discussion must be public, however.
Of the three proposals, the Trustees favored what was referred to as proposal number one. That contract would save the Township approximately $26,944 per year compared to the current year police budget.
The proposal would see Butler and Harrison Township share a captain, administrative assistant, 4.5 sergeants, and three COP deputies who would patrol across jurisdictions. Butler Township would have nine deputies assigned to Butler Township alone who would not be shared with other jurisdictions.
The estimated annual cost for 2016 would be $1.63 million and rise to $1.86 million in 2020.
“There were a lot of ways to do it cheaper,” said Montgomery County Chief Deputy Sheriff Rob Streck. “We looked at what the Township needs. Butler Township has a great police department but lacks resources.”
Streck has been the acting Chief of Police in the Township since the retirement of former Chief John Cresie in January.
All three trustees agreed that a police levy would need to be on the ballot in November – regardless of who is providing police services. The Township currently subsidizes the police department with about $400,000 annually.
“A levy is in the future regardless of whether we have a Township police department or the Sheriff’s Office,” said Flanagan.
“No matter what, a levy is going to be on the ballot,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Office is not free.”
Lang, along with residents in attendance, voiced dismay that the measure was not on the published agenda and that public discussion on the matter was not allowed until after the vote.
“I had absolutely no idea that this was going to be voted on this evening,” said Lang.
“I’m stunned by what I’ve just seen,” said resident John Ellis. “The agenda doesn’t say anything about this vote being taken or even discussed. Something this important should have more discussion.”
Resident Beth Cooper agreed.
“There is a trust issue between the residents and decisions being made in this room,” she said. “You just made a huge decision that wasn’t on the agenda. Now it’s a done deal, and you didn’t let us discuss it – you made a decision without even hearing the public.”
Flanagan disagreed and called the meeting the “democratic process.”
“I don’t seek other people’s opinions because this is not an opinion piece,” said Flanagan. “I try to take the emotion out of it.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.