By danny restivo
Local governing bodies are set for a study that could help turn three police forces into one.
“We’re hoping to find a way to advance our safety services while lessening our costs,” said Hubbard city Mayor John Darko.
In a couple of weeks, officials of the city, and Hubbard and Brookfield townships are expected to enter into an agreement for a state-funded feasibility study on forming a joint police district.
The three adjoining communities now have separate police forces.
The $27,000 study is part of the Ohio Department of Development’s Local Government Innovation Fund.
According to its website, the fund “was established to provide financial assistance to Ohio political subdivisions for planning and implementing projects that are projected to create more efficient and effective service delivery within a specific discipline of government services for one or more entities.”
In November, the LGIF approved the grant and now awaits a nod from the Ohio Controlling Board before the study can commence.
State Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-63rd, represents the communities in Columbus and helped facilitate the grant process. He said the joint district would be the first to combine a municipal and two township entities in Ohio.
“We’re kind of the pioneers,” he said. “There would be no other place like this.”
Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees championed the idea of a joint police force. He believes the state’s fiscal woes have created an environment that welcomes cost savings, while beefing up police personnel.
“It would be nice to have the manpower to back up our officers in case of a large-scale incident, while watching our costs that are being shortened by the state,” he said.
Lees said trustees were keeping an eye on the police budget after voters turned down a safety levy in November. The 1-mill five-year levy would have created an additional $125,000 annually for the police and fire departments. Lees said he thinks a joint district would benefit and bring savings to each community.
“It would be a big help to all of us,” he said.
Consolidation is not a new theme in the area.
Hubbard and Hubbard township share one fire department, while all three share 911 dispatching services with Trumbull county.
Hubbard transferred 911 services in July and expects to save $200,000 annually.
Fred Hanley, Hubbard township trustee, said the township saved $95,000 to $98,000 a year since transferring 911 services to the Trumbull County Emergency services center in 1995.
“If we see savings like this, we would be foolish not do it,” said Hanley. “It comes down to saving the taxpayer money.”
Darko, Hanley and Lees said safety was a high priority and hope the study would show numbers that support a joint district. O’Brien shares their optimism but understands the study must produce the savings figures.
“It looks good on paper, and we think it will work, but we won’t know for sure until it’s done,” he said.
Youngstown State University will conduct the six- to nine-month study after funding is released.