Posted 7/12/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The City of Tioga has suspended plans to recruit another police officer on the recommendation of Police Commissioner Tim Sundhagen.
Sundhagen also said the police reservists will continue to maintain their “stand down,” in which the volunteers are withholding services due to concerns over reservist safety.
At Tuesday’s regular commission meeting, the commission had planned on forming an interview committee for another officer, but Sundhagen cautioned about moving ahead with a new hire with so much financial uncertainty.
Police Chief Larry Maize has informally given Dec. 31 as the date of his retirement.
Sundhagen said the new police chief, which the city plans to hire in the next few months, may have his own ideas about how to structure the department.
The police department also has two dispatch positions. Their salaries are paid for through the county’s emergency sales tax, and that grant needs to be approved annually.
One dispatcher’s position is paid for through April and a second one expires in August.
Sundhagen told the commission it makes little sense to hire a police officer now, just to have to lay off a dispatcher in a few months.
“We need to keep the people we have now,” he said.
The county’s tax also funded around $80,000 worth of electronic equipment to support dispatching services.
Tax revenue may continue its precipitous decline that’s been seen over the past year. If that happens, further budget cuts may be needed.
“The dust hasn’t settled on everything that’s been happening,” Sundhagen said, speaking after the meeting.
Mayor Drake McClelland said at the meeting further budget cuts are not likely, but they are within the realm of possibility. So the city should try to maintain current budget levels.
“We need to hold steady,” he said.
The police force currently has three officers, one of which is a school resource officer, who is on full-time patrol during the summer.
When school is in session she is required by the grant that supports her position to spend 75 percent of her time at the town’s two schools.
The city has a fourth patrol officer returning to the city, Josh Nelson, who resigned earlier this year on good terms.
The commission voted to table the forming of an interview committee for a new officer. The issue will be revisited in August.
Sundhagen also recommended the city respect the reserve board’s decision to put the volunteers on “furlough” until the board agrees to reactivate them or the new chief decides how they will be utilized.
“We’ve lost enough officers that I think it’s wise to have a stand down,” Sundhagen explained.
Reserve board member Adam Fedler said the reservists were never intended to replace officers.
“The intent of the reserves is to provide back up and prisoner transport,” he said.
The reservists were activated to patrol during Freedom Fest, but that was a temporary suspension of the stand down.