Rossford City Council decided to authorize the police chief to apply for a federal grant that would enable the hiring of another patrol officer, after initial uncertainty about the cost.
The 2013 COPS Hiring Program grant would pay 35 percent of the cost of a new officer over the first four years of the officer’s employment, starting in 2014.
The grant’s funding expires after the first three years, and a recipient police agency is obliged to pay the full cost of the officer for at least one more year under the terms of the Justice Department program.
For Rossford, this would work out to a subsidy of $54,930 for the first two years of the grant program. In the third year, the reimbursement would drop to $15,140 because the total payout of the grant is capped at $125,000. By year four, the city would be paying the whole cost of $97,185.
At council’s May 13 meeting, Police Chief Glenn Goss said he had to complete the lengthy grant application and file it by the May 22 deadline. He explained that departments such as Rossford’s, with fewer than 20 officers, could apply for funding for just one officer. Since then, the Justice Department has extended the deadline to June 4 because of problems with the COPS Web site.
Council members wanted the issue looked at by their public safety and finance committee.
Council President Larry Oberdorf said the tight deadline was no reason to exclude the appropriate committee.
Council member Caroline Eckel expressed concern that the long-term cost of accepting the grant and keeping the officer would be more than the city could afford.
The public safety and finance committee met on May 20, followed by a short special council meeting, at which the vote was 7-0 to authorize Chief Goss to apply for the grant.
After the committee meeting, the chief said that his department, with 10 patrol officers, was two short of its normal strength.
To fill gaps in the schedule, he was paying more than $100,000 in overtime annually, an amount that would be reduced if he had another patrol officer.
He said he also had a lot of officers in their 40s who would be eligible to retire in the next five years.
Council members saw the grant as a money-saving opportunity for the city.
“This is going to save us in the range of 30 to 35 percent,” Councilman Jerry Staczek said just before the vote.