Niles Township, Concerned Citizens have air-clearing session

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Niles Daily Star
NILES - Niles Township's Board of Trustees and the township's Concerned Citizens committee had an air-clearing session of sorts Monday night.
The Concerned Citizens group formed recently to gauge and rally support in the township for the Niles Township Police Department.
Funding for that department has been in jeopardy, in part because of dwindling state revenue sharing funds and also because the township collects no tax dollars directly earmarked for operating its police department.
Because of those things, township trustees this year cut the police department's operating budget and its police chief, John Street, was forced to cut back on patrols to accommodate those reduced budget figures.
Those cutbacks meant the discontinuance of midnight-shift police protection in Niles Township.
After an outcry from township residents who support the police department, and also after the City of Niles made public its decision to no longer answer township police calls during times when the township's police department wasn't operating a patrol, the township board moved $200,000 from its savings funds into the general fund to help restore the township's police department to full-time patrols.
In addition, township Trustee Kevin Tonkin sponsored a motion recently, which was approved by the board, to ask township voters to approve a one-mill tax levy, proceeds of which would support the police department.
That vote is tentatively scheduled for May, but because of that election will be the first combined with a Brandywine school election, the police millage vote may be moved to the August primary election date.
Township Treasurer Jim Ringler pointed out Monday that one-mill may be only a bandage-approach to financing the police department.
A representative of the Concerned Citizens, asked each of the township board members to go on the record as to whether they support the one-mill levy for the police department.
Each answered in the affirmative, other than Marge Durm-Hiatt, who said she supports a millage for public safety in the township, but would not specify that the money should be used for the township police department, and Tonkin, who said he won't talk publicly about whether he supports the millage.
Representatives of the Concerned Citizens group, who were in the audience at Monday's township board meeting, invited the board members to attend the group's meetings and be a part of finding solutions to the public safety funding issue presently before the township board.
After questions from the Concerned Citizens group, which some of the board members took as negatively skewed, conversation ensued as to how both groups need to work together.
Lois Sherman, a long-time police dispatcher, said, "You say you're working to help find financing for the police department, but rather than coming on board and all of us working together, we seem to be clashing. I don't understand why. Why can't we attempt to work together?"
In other business Monday night, the township:
approved the purchase of two new township police cars, totaling $36,384.60.
approved the hiring of a township police officer.
The township board meets again on Monday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. at the township hall.