The issue of how townships will contract for police protection has become a bidding war since the Lucas County Sheriff's Office announced townships will soon be charged for road patrol services.
Since Monclova and Springfield townships started looking for cheaper options by seeking bids from municipal police departments last month, Sheriff James Telb has promised township trustees lower rates.
The sheriff's office has also threatened the village of Holland - whose police department has offered service to both Monclova and Springfield townships - that they will have to foot the bill for the townships' dispatch.
It all started in June, when Lucas County commissioners and Sheriff James Telb notified the county's eight townships without police departments that the county will begin charging for patrol services. If the townships do not pay the county for police protection, then, as of Jan. 1, the sheriff's office will respond only to 911 calls.
The Lucas County Commissioners now have agreed to discount the sheriff's rates for the first three years of service, Sheriff Telb told officials from several townships in form letters dated Sept. 2.
The original rates were calculated by population, the letter said, and the reduced fees represent 65 percent of the county's actual cost for next year, 80 percent for 2011, and 90 percent for 2012.
The 3-year discounts were meant to give townships more time to collect the funds to maintain services from the sheriff's office, Lucas County Jail Administrator Jim O'Neal said on behalf of the sheriff's office.
"We applaud the townships for seeking different ways and taking the initiative to fund services," Mr. O'Neal said. "But we still think [ours] are the best and the most cost effective."
Springfield - the largest township in Lucas County with 21,511 people - was told this summer to expect a bill of nearly $2.5 million a year to maintain road patrol from the sheriff's office.
That's why Springfield Township voters will be asked in November to approve a levy to raise about $2.4 million a year for police services - but it remains unclear whether Springfield will turn to Holland or the county for protection, said Springfield Township Administrator Leslie Kohli.
For now, Springfield pays almost $500,000 a year to keep one deputy in the township day and night.
A contract with Holland would put three officers on the streets per shift and cost nearly $3.08 million in the first year, including purchasing equipment to expand the department. In the second year, the cost would drop to $2.7 million.
Although they haven't received a lower bid from the county in writing, Ms. Kohli said Sheriff Telb told township officials during a meeting last month to watch the mail for a new, lower price.
The new discounted offer for Springfield Township will be delivered later this week, Mr. O'Neal said.
But the township isn't counting on it, she said.
"They could bring the price down, but they're still going to try to get it from dispatch," Ms. Kohli said.
Holland will be billed about $24,000 for the county's dispatching services with the discount next year, but it would also be on the hook for Springfield's dispatch - upwards of $422,000 - if the village polices the township, Sheriff Telb told Holland Mayor Michael Yunker in the Sept. 2 letter.
"It should also be noted that the cost of dispatching and call-taking are embedded in our cost analysis proposals for policing services to the various townships. Should Holland provide policing services for Springfield Township these costs should be incorporated into your budget," the sheriff's letter to the mayor read.
Mr. Yunker said he feels the county's threat of charges are meant to punish Holland for offering to rescue the cash-strapped townships with cheaper police protection.
"Obviously they are trying to send a message to us," Mr. Yunker said.
"They were trying to force all these communities to panic and release levies on the ballot ... and it turned around and bit them because the townships were upset and found alternatives."
Mr. O'Neal said the $422,000-bill was not a scare tactic.
"Its just a pass-through cost," Mr. O'Neal said, adding that Springfield will find the same number in their own revised bill he expects they will receive within days.
Monclova Township is now considering bids for police protection from Holland and Whitehouse as alternatives to the county.
The sheriff's recent letter to Whitehouse did not address the bid their police provided for protection in Monclova Township. Instead, the letter offered the discounted cost of about $50,000 for both police and fire dispatching services to the delight of Whitehouse officials, said Dennis Recker, village administrator.
"We were pleased to get this letter and see the numbers," he said. "They're not that bad, and we're appreciative of that."
Monclova Township economic development coordinator Alan Mikesell created a cost analysis of all options for police protection, including the possibility of creating a township police force. The idea was not ruled out,although his report noted the endeavor would be costly and time consuming.
A new police force might cost Monclova Township between $650,000 and $750,000 annually, not including an estimated start-up cost of about $166,800 for uniforms, patrol cars and more, Mr. Mikesell said.
Holland police would be willing to provide service, but not until 2011.
Whitehouse first estimated their police services would cost Monclova about $633,000 a year, which was below the county's original price of about $737,000. But then the county announced its discount, and that it was charging an extra $125,000 for dispatch service and $35,000 for necessary prosecution.
That means policing from Whitehouse next year would cost the township about $793,000, while the county would cost about $469,000.
Mr. Mikesell also told trustees that because the county will offer dispatching free in their policing package, any alternatives are at a "competitive disadvantage."
"It just stops about any competitive bidding by anybody else," Mr. Mikesell said.
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