Evart council discuss police consolidation

EVART — Evart City manager Zack Szakacs and Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford will meet today to discuss consolidating police services.

“This is just exploratory. I want to hear what the sheriff’s department can offer us,” Szakacs said.

The idea was proposed by councilman Kasey Keysor earlier this month to save the city money and balance the city budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The council clarified Monday that the goal of consolidation was to maintain the same police services within the city, but decrease cost.

“What we want is the same service we have now,” said councilman Gregg Sherman.

Crawford said the only savings Evart would experience if an agreement was reached, would be in reducing the amount of officers. He said the most logical idea would be to cut the positions of police chief and deputy chief.

“If they’re struggling with money, we’re not going to be able to solve that problem by taking all of their officers,” Crawford said.

Evart Police Department currently staffs five employees, a police chief, deputy chief, officer, K-9 patrol sergeant and administrative assistant. Officers patrol the streets of Evart for 120 hours each week. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department provides coverage when City police officers are off duty. The Sheriff’s department enforces state laws concerning traffic violations and road patrol, but does not enforce city ordinances.

“I’m concerned with whether the sheriff’s department will be able to enforce our city ordinances,” Szakacs said.

The Evart police department currently enforces general offense ordinances such as stray animals, junk automobiles, disorderly conduct, nuisances such as noise complaints and alcoholic beverages.

“We can cover city ordinances if the city wants us to, but there would have to be some stipulations,” said Crawford.

The sheriff said another option would be for the city of Evart to keep only the police chief, who would enforce city ordinances, while the sheriff’s deputies could patrol the streets.

The City of Evart’s charter states that a police chief must be employed. If a consolidation agreement was reached, the charter could be altered.

Crawford said another issue facing complete consolidation is the complexity involved in bringing another union to the department.

Szakacs and Crawford will meet today along with Osceola County Coordinator Susan Vanderpohl and City of Evart attorney Jim White to discuss options for consolidation.

Crawford said if an agreement was reached, it would not take effect this year.

In other Evart City Council business, the council:

  • approved a motion to discontinue Charter cable service at the city hall due to the rate set to increase from $4.99 to $24.99;
  • heard from Osceola County EMS Director Ed Nettles, who proposed two possible sites for an EMS base to be established in Evart: on the corner of 5 Mile and Lawman roads, and the “Stanley property,” just west of 110th ave. on US 10;
  • approved City treasurer beginning the process of refinancing the city’s sewer bond, which will reduce the interest rate from 5 percent to 3 percent  but maintain the payback date of July 1, 2018, saving the City $173,000 over the course of six years.

The next Evart City Council meeting will be on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at The Depot.