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Ashland Police Department

New budget could include — more officers

Bob Smith would take six new police officer positions in the Ashland Police Department. Seven would be great, too. Even 10.

But Smith, the master sergeant at APD, is pleased that the department may get the funding to create three new patrol officer positions by July 1.

&

It&

s a good number,&

Smith said.

Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg said the City of Ashland may add the positions and a planner for the Community Development Department. The departments asked for additional staffing during the preliminary planning of the 2006-07 city budget.

The city council must give final approval for the city budget.

According to Tuneberg, the property tax rate could go up if those positions are approved during the upcoming budgeting process, when the Citizens&

Budget Committee and Ashland City Council review the budget.

&

It would impact the property tax unless we identify revenue streams or cost savings,&

Tuneberg said, noting that city officials will look for efficiencies before raising property taxes.

For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the tax rate is $1.62 per $1,000 in assessed property value for the city, $2.09 per $1,000 for parks and $1.38 per $1,000 for the Youth Activities levy, according to Tuneberg.

The additional police officers, which would increase the APD patrol force from 15 to 18 officers, would cost about $175,000 next year, according to APD Chief Mike Bianca. That figure includes salary, benefits and equipment.

&

We actually started from a wish list of seven positions,&

Bianca said.

The police had asked for four patrol officers, a detective and upping two half-time positions &

technical support and records &

to full-time jobs. The department also requested changing the master sergeant position to a lieutenant, which pays more and has higher education and experience requirements.

Continued turnover

When department heads and City Administrator Gino Grimaldi prioritized the wants of all city departments, APD was left with three patrol officers and the lieutenant position.

Smith had planned to plug the three of requested new officers into each shift &

day, swing and night &

and dedicate the fourth position to traffic patrols. He is not sure how the three officers might be allocated, but noted any additional officers will help.

&

Best case scenario, everybody comes to work and we have 15, maybe 16 to 18 officers,&

Smith said.

The police department has fought to fill the steady tide of vacancies that have resulted from resignations and the November firing of an officer. The departure of Sgt. Kurt Cromwell, who spent 10 years on the force, last month leaves the department with a vacant supervisor position. In the next six months, up to three veteran officers could be eligible for retirement, according to Smith.

&

We&

re losing people faster than we can fill them,&

Smith said.

Seven of the 15 APD patrol officers have less than 18 months law enforcement experience, according to Bianca.

&

The way things are going right now it will be used as a stepping stone to move on to other departments,&

said Officer Steve MacLennan, the president of the Ashland Police Association.

Officer turnover has led to adjustments within the department. APD reassigned its school resource officer to patrol in September and pulled a traffic officer back onto patrol. The dedicated downtown officer has also returned to regular rotation and special assignments, such as the six-month detective apprentice program, have been put on hold.

Adding more positions will, police supervisors hope, help officers feel more supported and stabilize the department.

&

But if you have overworked officers ... after awhile, they get to the point where they&

re like &

145;I&

ll go somewhere else,&

&

APD Deputy Chief Rich Walsh said.

The Ashland Police Association, the collective bargaining unit for the department&

s rank-and-file officers, would like the city to add six new patrol officers, according to MacLennan.

&

I told Bobby (Smith) he needed to add six patrol, just figuring we needed two more per shift,&

MacLennan said. &

We don&

t have enough people here working.&

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 225 or jsquires@dailytidings.com. Staff writer Vicki Aldous contributed to this report.