Swanton Village Council last week approved a pay increase for village police officers.
“After much analysis and review, recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers is vital to ensure the safety of the community,” said Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle. “Many officers indicate leaving is not for lack of content with Swanton but rather wages.”
Swanton Police Chief Adam Berg said the increase would help the department with applicants. Currently they only get two or three applicants for open positions.
The increase in wages, and resulting retirement contribution, will come from the general fund, as that is where police operations are funded. It will cost a little over $100,000 initially, and about $30,000 after that. Hoelzle stressed that the increase in compensation was not just in the form of wages.
Council is also considering placing a police levy before voters, but finance director Jennifer Harkey said the village will be able to absorb the raise approved Monday whether that levy is approved or not.
“This is a difficult conversation to have when you have a high turnover,” said Hoelzle. “Yes, of course it’s going to impact our general fund. One hundred percent it’s going to impact the general fund.”
The new compensation schedule for 2022-25 was approved by emergency ordinance at the Sept. 27 Council meeting. The raise will go into effect on Nov. 28.
“Councilwoman Kreuz, chairperson of the Public Safety Committee, felt strongly about this topic,” Hoelzle said. “It was presented as an emergency as recruiting and retaining officers is to ensure the safety of the public.”
The administrator said the decision to present as an emergency had nothing to do with crime levels but rather general public safety as a whole.
“You know what really kind of bothers me on this is that we’re going to be using a lot of our money that we’re taking away from other things and I still think we’re doing too little,” said Councilman Craig Rose. He added that it is a good first step.
Harkey said the pay increase will get Swanton closer to what communities such as Whitehouse are paying officers.
Also at the meeting, Council approved a new EMS contract with Fulton County, by emergency ordinance. The new contract is part of a changed EMS system in the county made possible by a levy approved in November.
• Swanton Mayor Neil Toeppe read a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week, which is Oct. 3-9. “I urge all the people of Swanton to learn the sounds of fire safety,” he said.
• Council approved applying for a body armor grant through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
• Council passed the first reading of an ordinance to enter into a fisheries agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the reservoir. In the past, the department has stocked the reservoir with rainbow trout.
• The Public Safety Committee discussed the possibility of a 3-mill police levy. It was further discussed at a Finance Committee meeting on Monday. “I personally feel that this is something we need to take a close look at,” said Kathy Kreuz, committee chair.
• Possible food truck regulations were also discussed by the committee. Food truck vendors have come to the village asking what requirements there are in the village. Hoelzle will check with other municipalities to see what requirements they have.
It was stressed that they do not want to make things cumbersome for vendors, but it could be helpful to have formal rules and regulations in place.
• Kreuz said the committee decided to leave the current parking ordinance in Waterwood Farms in place. There will be no parking on the east side of the road.
• Hoelzle reported that brush pick up could be slow this month because the village does not currently have a wood chipper. But village employees will try to pick up brush each week.
• Project 8 and 9 sewer separation is scheduled to start early this month. Hoelzle stressed it would be inconvenient for residents in the area.
• Applications for the sidewalk improvement program will be accepted until Oct. 8.
• Council reinstated John Trejo as a full-time patrol officer after he withdrew his letter of resignation.
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010