With the Town of Frankford’s budget process under way for the coming year, Town Council President Joanne Bacon said at the Monday, July 1, council meeting that she wants the Town to examine bringing back its police force.
“I seriously would like to reinstate our police department,” Bacon said. “We haven’t completed that part of the budget yet.”
A motion was made to bring the idea of a restored police force into the budget process, and it was seconded, but no vote was taken.
“I think having a police presence is important in town,” Bacon said.
Town resident Jerry Smith responded, “I think being able to pay for it is just as important.” Smith questioned whether there is community support for a town police force, and whether a tax increase to pay for police would place too great a burden on many town residents.
Council Vice President Greg Welch said he would be willing to pay $200 extra per year for a town police force. That figure, though, is not based on any actual estimates of what such a move would cost taxpayers.
“We’re not there yet, Jerry,” Bacon said. “We need to get there, so we need to work through our budget to see what kind of figures we have.” Bacon said property taxes will not go up this year, “to my knowledge.”
Town Council Treasurer Velicia Melson added that the Town can’t receive county grants for police for two years after disbanding, but could still receive federal grants.
“I can’t think of a town that wouldn’t like to have a police department,” Smith said, “but the question is whether it’s fiscally viable.”
“The town has no coverage whatsoever, other than traffic coverage three hours a day,” Bacon said.
Welch said that when the town did have its small force, if anyone called the state police, “They would say, ‘Well, you have a police force, call them,’ and we would say, ‘We have one guy, and he’s on vacation.’”
“I’m not aware of all the criminal problems in Frankford to the point that we’re in a dire situation,” Smith said.
Bacon said she was “not talking about crime,” but said there are issues the town police could handle instead of the 12-hour presence the state police currently have in town, under an agreement for Town-funded DSP additional patrols. “A police presence is very important,” Bacon said.
“You’ve got to be pro-active,” Welch said, “or it deteriorates.”
“What I’m hearing … is that you want a police department, but I don’t hear anyone talking about how we’re going to finance … how you generate the money for the police force without only having taxes to rely on,” Smith said.
Budget Committee member Kathy Murray said the council needs to wait until all the budget figures are finalized before moving forward in pursuit of restarting its police department.
“They don’t even know yet, because all of the expenses haven’t been calculated,” she said.
Smith said the Town should “get the opinion of the citizens” before deciding to move forward with reinstating a police force. Welch said, “We did last time, and that’s why we didn’t get a police force. Everybody said they didn’t mind paying it but they knew people that couldn’t afford it. Those people didn’t show up at the meetings — the people that couldn’t afford it. But they had a lot of people speaking for them.”
Smith urged the council to look into ways to increase the Town’s revenue in different ways to pay for a police force, saying it would be nice if it could be funded in ways other than taxes or along with taxes.
By Kerin Magilll