Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Residents try to keep their chief of police

Maineville group donates cash for pay

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MAINEVILLE — A group of residents in this cash-strapped Warren County village are taking it upon themselves to keep the police chief on the payroll.

        Armed with a $1,315 check — proceeds raised at a recent festival — members of Citizens for Maineville Police Department planned to turn the money over to village council Tuesday.

        The money, raised from a bake sale, craft booths, and other activities, would be earmarked for the police department and to pay Chief Joe Lane's salary.

        “We don't want to lose the police department, and we don't want to lose Joe Lane,” said Marti Robers, a two-year resident who spearheaded the citizen's group.

        “We want to raise enough money to keep the police department going and get him up to some sort of salary until we get these levies passed.”

        The actions came within two months of council's decision to eliminate the department's nine part-time officers and to strip Chief Lane, a 30-year veteran of the force, of his benefits and more than $20,000 in annual pay.

        At 58, Chief Lane is now the village's lone officer, working 15 hours a week at $10 per hour.

        Village leaders have cited overall financial problems as a reason for the police cutbacks, which drew angry cries from citizens who have crowded council meetings since June.

        Chief Lane, who has garnered strong support among residents, has alleged that council's actions were a personal attack.

        Officials at the state auditor's office said the village legally can accept the citizen group's donation and designate the money to whatever purpose the residents request.

        While Mayor Ethel Whitaker applauded the group's efforts, she was skeptical what effect it would have on village finances.

        “It's a short-term solution,” she said. “Unless they can keep it up monthly, I don't know how it would help long term.”

        With expenses of about $62,000 a year, the police department takes 80 percent of the village's budget, council members have said.

        Money for police comes from a levy that generates $19,600 a year, as well as fines collected through mayor's court. The difference is paid from the general fund, village officials said.

        In November, residents will be asked to increase their taxes by 1 mill to raise another $11,300 annually for the police department.

        Mrs. Robers said she thinks council has more options. The citizen group has talked about petitioning council to place a 1 percent income tax on an upcoming ballot. The village now has no income tax.

        “We need to let council know what the people want. They are just six people. If they are representing the people ... it's up to them.”

        Ms. Whitaker said she is opposed to an income tax. “I think we are taxed enough,” she said. “But if the residents vote it in, that's what we'll do.”


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