After adversity, police force in Hubbard Twp. back on track
HUBBARD TOWNSHIP — The future is looking up for the Hubbard Township Police Department.
Concerns were raised in late 2019 that the department might have to cease operations, with the township opting for another agency for its police protection.
But now the department has become more solvent because of several police administrative positions staying unfilled after retirements, receipt of grants for bulletproof vests and other police items, plus passage of a 1.75-mill renewal levy.
Police Chief Greg Tarr said when he took office this year as chief, a “big part of the police department succeeding was through attrition and not replacing employees retiring, There were full-time employees, including the chief, a detective, an administrative assistant, and two police officers that were not replaced. We instead had officers assigned to other tasks and roles. Everyone was open to this, and officers stepped up and took on additional roles.”
He said the five full-time employees not being replaced saved the department between $250,000 and $300,000.
“For a police department like Hubbard Township, $300,000 goes a long way,” said ownship Trustee Rick Hernandez, who serves as liaison to the police department.
The department today has a chief, a captain, five full-time and four part-time officers. The administrative assistant is now part-time with a 20-hour work week.
Tarr said in addition to his administrative duties, he also is on patrol.
Police have worked with fiscal officer Jennifer Evans, who started in April 2020, on ways to save money and finding cost-cutting measures. Tarr said they have cut back on cellphones, cleaning materials, and have even downsized a first-aid kit.
Capt. Ron Fusco said the police union hired a forensic accountant to review finances when township trustees were considering transitioning to the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department, and to do a three- to four-year projection. He said this review showed the department was never financially “in the red.”
Fusco said the department did receive COVID-19 relief funds in 2020 and 2021, which helped greatly but even without those dollars, the department was solvent. Tarr said the COVID-19 funds helped provide “a buffer.”
Fusco said the department has changed from replacing a cruiser every year to now every two years. “We have made major cuts where we can.” he said.
Fusco said $10,000 in grants were received to cover costs for bulletproof vests — which are $1,000 each — and for police training.
Plans are to see what funds are available to hire additional part-time officers.
Officer Chris Gifford, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said there was also concern in 2019 of laying off part-time officers if a renewal levy did not pass. He said trustees were concerned the police department would be out of money in early 2020 and not be able to do payroll.
“The first attempt on the levy failed, but the second time on the ballot it passed,” Gifford said, noting the levy funds began in 2020.
A LOT OF WORK
Gifford said contract negotiations have gone well with trustees. The last contract was agreed upon by both sides in 47 minutes with compromises made, he said. The union also agreed this year not to take a uniform allowance, saving $1,150 per officer for five officers.
Trustee Hernandez said it took a lot of work to get to where the department is now.
“The trustees saw what the department needed and had to make decisions on personnel and how to reduce staff without a lapse in service. The department has been operating very efficiently. This is a success story. The department will be there for a long time,” said Hernandez, who indicated he stays in contact with the chief daily.
He said trustees agreed that the chief and captain would do road patrol duty as part of their responsibilities.
Gifford said the department also receives support from police in Hubbard city, Liberty, and Brookfield when they need assistance.
“They always come and back us up because of our staffing,” he said.
Fusco said some worried that levy funds would still not be enough,
“We knew we could survive if certain moves were made. Cost-cutting measures have taken place in management and across the board,” he said.
Tarr said when people ask how the police provide protection with less staff, he explains the township is covered by a two-man shift 85 to 95 percent of the time.
“We are able to do this with a working chief and captain out on the roads patroling. I still get approached by some people asking if we are able to stay open. We are solvent and here to stay,” he said.
Tarr said previously when a full-time officer called off, they were replaced by someone on overtime .
“We now do not fill it as long as there is an officer on the road to cover calls. That is a big savings in overtime,” he said.
“We are confident that if we continue on the pace we are on, we will remain solvent. We will continue to watch what we are doing with spending money and how we operate,” he said.
Tarr said the police appreciate all the support they have received from the public,
“The support we have had in the past two years from the community was beyond my expectations,” he said.