By danny restivo
A potential law-enforcement consolidation hinges on a Youngstown State University study.
Officials from the university’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies met with township trustees and city officials last week to discuss details about a study that could spark a single police department for the city, the township and Brookfield township. The center is conducting the study.
“Right now, we’re in the infancy stage, but we’re trying to make sure everyone is on the same page, and thus far, we are,” said Ron Haun, Brookfield Township trustee.
The study is funded by a $27,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development’s Local Government Initiative Fund that was approved by the state earlier this year.
Thomas A. Finnerty, associate director at the Center for Urban and Regional Studies, said the feasibility study will include examination of police manpower, each department’s individual calls for service and their locations, staff budgets and population figures. Finnerty said once the study is finalized in June, government officials will have a cost savings analysis for the entities involved as well as various options they can take to implement the joint department.
Finnerty said several townships and municipalities in the state have undergone feasibility studies for a joint police district, but none went on to consolidate.
“What usually gets in the way is local politics,” said Finnerty. “The study only tells you what the benefits are and what the liabilities might be, not how you should implement it.”
He said the ability for local officials to agree on appropriate tax levies and police chiefs as well as municipal and township laws are some issues the study doesn’t cover.
Fred Hanley, Hubbard Township trustee, said Hubbard Township and city officials discussed sharing a police department in 1995 and again in 2005. He said Ohio law had prevented townships and municipalities from sharing a single police department before legislation amended the provision in 2011. Hanley said he supported the effort then and continues to support it now.
“It’s just common sense,” he said. “If we can show savings and efficiency, then I don’t see why we can’t do it.”
Hanley said Hubbard city and township merged fire-department services in 2007, and it has lowered taxes for township residents by 0.2-mills a year.
Finnerty said government consolidation works easier with fire departments because many of the firefighters are volunteer, and Ohio law allows more flexibility with fire departments than with police departments.
Though there are challenges, Finnerty believes the three entities have expressed a willingness to overcome those obstacles.
“It’s going to take some political will, but right now, it seems like it’s there with these guys,” said Finnerty.
Brookfield trustees will have a special meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the administration building to discuss the study with YSU officials.