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Howland police chief suggests levy

HOWLAND — Police Chief Nick Roberts has asked township trustees to consider placing a police levy on the November ballot after presenting an overview of the department’s 2022 budget.

“As you can see, the needs of the police department are growing, and the cost of doing business continues to increase on a yearly basis,” Roberts said at Wednesday night’s trustee meeting. “I have made as many cuts to the police budget as possible without jeopardizing officer safety or community services that we provide and our residents expect.”

The last police levy passed in the township was a replacement levy in 2012 — 10 years ago, Roberts said.

Township Administrator Darlene St. George said trustees will have to consider the request and make a decision on whether to put a levy on the ballot. A possible millage has not been determined.

Trustees Matthew Vansuch and James LaPolla did not say explicitly whether they would consider a levy during their regular meeting but expressed support for all of the township’s departments.

Other department heads also presented their 2022 budgets, all pointing to increasing operating costs and various equipment in need of replacement as it reaches the end of its functional lifespan.

St. George, who presented the 2022 budget for the general fund, said during the meeting, “The road department, the fire department, the police department all do a great job of living within their budgets.”

Roberts in his overview said the largest purchase he expects to make in the coming year is ammunition and qualifications, which will cost about $7,000. It has been a few years since the department replaced its ammunition stock, Roberts said, and there also are costs associated with firearms qualifications, which is required once per year, but Roberts prefers to do it twice per year.

Other anticipated costs in the future include replacing the department’s more than 20-year-old speed trailer, which has a broken circuit board, and replacing as many as six Chevrolet police vehicles, model years 2008 to 2016, which are becoming costly to repair because age and wear. Last year, the department spent $3,194 on repairs to just one 2016 Chevrolet Impala, according to Roberts.

The department has generated some funding from the township impound lot, which was implemented in January 2020, but the amount — $88,010 in total from administrative fees, storage, and vehicle sales — is less than originally anticipated because fewer drivers were on the road during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Roberts.

He said if a levy passed, he would be able to hire another officer, which would bring the department up to full staff at 20 officers and would cut down on overtime pay.

He also said a levy would provide funding to purchase and maintain the department’s fleet, maintain professional training, purchase equipment, and maintain specialized units and ever-evolving technology needed for the department to function.

“Technology has evolved over the past 10 years, and the cost of doing business has and will continue to increase. That’s why it is important that we realize maintaining the status quo of the police department will benefit everyone who enjoys living, working and traveling to and through Howland Township,” Roberts said.

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