City to dismantle full-time police department, raise water and sewage utilities

The LaCenter City Council has voted to dismantle its full-time city police department. The department’s last day will be May 30.

Mayor Jamie Hack says it’s all due to budget problems. He says an audit last year found the city was $125,000 in the red. Some citizens say they are concerned; they don’t want their safety sacrificed for savings.

Are you willing to give that up? That’s the question this petition asks, and people are signing in support.

Darrell Butler was the one to publish the petitions. He says his neighborhood is relatively safe, but now isn’t the time to dissolve the department. “It affects not only us, but our neighbors. Our neighbors are all upset over it," he says. 

Voters in the city recently approved alcohol sales. Butler says he believes that should be a factor in keeping the police department. “It gives you seven day a week protection. If you don’t have two, you’re not going to have that," he says. 

The sheriff’s office is responsible for the entire county, but Ballard County Sheriff Carey Batts says he could focus more of his deputies in LaCenter if the city were to contract with the department.

Batts says he hopes the city will at least consider a contract. He says the sheriff’s department will still provide the city with services, but transitioning away from a full-time department is difficult.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us, because they have just as many calls as any city in the county," Batts says.

Butler knows the geography of his county and how long it may take deputies to respond to a call. He says sometimes the county can’t offer what the city can. "They know the people. They know how to react to them, so I just think it’s a bad mistake," he says. 

Come June 1, the mayor says LaCenter will have a part-time police department. That means they will no longer have a full-time police chief. After the department is dismantled, a part-time police officer will also act as the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control administrator. The city council will have a meeting Tuesday regarding those concerns.

The police department isn’t the only issue the city is trying to fix within its budget. Water and sewage utilities are also a concern. Hack says LaCenter’s lagoons have been hit with more than $50,000 in fines from the EPA over the past year. To help bring the lagoons up to compliance, customers will pay a $16 flat fee on top of their normal bills. 

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