CENTERBURG — As employees of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office pencil in dates for their furlough days, Centerburg Village Council members wonder what will become of the village’s law enforcement protection.
Following an executive session to discuss personnel, council unanimously voted to hold a public meeting to allow the residents of Centerburg the opportunity to discuss their feelings on law enforcement.
The meeting, set to take place Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m., was designed to discuss “the pros and cons of having our own police department or continuing with our contract with the [Knox County] Sheriff’s Office,” said councilwoman Aimee Humphrey in making the motion.
“This meeting is a way to just not jump into anything,” Humphrey said following the meeting. “We really need to see what our community wants.”
Other members of council agreed.
“This is the best way to let our residents tell us what they think,” said councilwoman Susan Oswalt.
“Furloughs aren’t the only reason we are questioning the sheriff’s [office], there have been other issues. He hasn’t been very responsive to Phil [Lohmeyer] and George [Shaw],” said councilman Randy McLarnan.
Mayor George Shaw said he is disappointed the village has not heard directly from Knox County Sheriff David Barber regarding the furlough days and how they will affect the citizens.
“We are waiting on the sheriff to contact us. We were told he was going to set up a meeting with us, but nothing has been scheduled. He was invited, but refused to come to our meeting tonight,” said Shaw.
In an earlier interview with Shaw, he said he had only heard rumors regarding the village but was hopeful dialogue would start soon between the village and the KCSO.
“We are sitting here in the dark, hearing we will lose police protection for 21 days and there is not a whole lot I can do it about it,” Shaw said last week. “It’s not fair to our residents that we have money to fund our security and we won’t be able to give it to them.”
Last month, the KCSO’s union voted to accept seven furlough days, which are to be taken by the end of the calendar year. The vote was approved and backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, in order to avoid any departmental layoffs.
Monday, prior to the council meeting, Barber told the News any contracts with his office are automatically adjusted based on agreements through the Fraternal Order of Police. When asked if deputies assigned to Centerburg and Gambier, both under contract with the KCSO, were exempt from furloughs, Barber said, “All deputies are taking a minimum of nine furlough days between now and the end of the year.”
Earlier this year, Centerburg’s council voted 5 to 1 to accept a new four-year contract with the sheriff’s office. The contract stipulates “at least three deputies to work no less than eight hours per day and no more than 40 hours per week.”
“I thought we had a better rapport with the sheriff,” Shaw said. “He has to understand the village’s point of view — we do have a contract.”
In a message left with the News, Monday evening, Barber explained that while both Centerburg and Gambier have contracts with his office, they will not be billed for furlough days.
“If an officer has taken a furlough day it will decrease that invoice, obviously, because when a deputy is not there, he is the one making the sacrifice and the village is not being charged for that,” Barber said in his message.
He also said the furlough days are being used in order to keep employee layoffs at bay.
“Hopefully the villages see it that way,” Barber said.
In addition, council also:
•Approved the parade request for the Oldtime Farming Festival. The festival will take place Sept. 19 to 20. The parade will close down Main Street from the Church of Christ to the park from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 19.
•Agreed to go into contract with Bird and Bull as the engineer of the wastewater treatment plant.
•Accepted the high bid of $155,000 for the property at 4545 Lock Road. The bid requested the village pay up to $3,000 for closing costs. Matthew and Melinda Miller of Johnstown will be able to close on the property within 30 days.
•Waived three readings and passed, by emergency, a renewal of the village’s health care through Anthem Health Insurance.
The next council meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., following the 6:30 public meeting regarding law enforcement.