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Published: Tuesday, 7/21/2009

Sylvania police ranks to grow temporarily ahead of retirements

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Sylvania Police Department's authorized patrol force will increase by six for 17 months to allow for training of new officers to replace six who are expected to retire by early 2011.

Mayor Craig Stough and Police Chief Gerald Sobb said they plan to hold a police exam on Aug. 20 and then hire new officers in pairs in October and next year in March and September.

They will replace six department members who must retire by Jan. 19, 2011, to participate in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan offered by the state pension fund for police and firefighters.

Chief Sobb, who is one of the six expected to retire, said he needs the new hires to be staggered because each new officer requires the attention of a training officer during his or her training period.

Losing five patrol officers in a short time would cut into a significant part of the city's street presence, and even if the new hires are certified for municipal police work, Chief Sobb said, they will undergo a 15-week training period in Sylvania to familiarize them with the community.

"I cannot do six at one time," the chief said. "The overtime would be astronomical. Two is about the most I can handle at one time" for training.

The increase in authorized patrol strength, from the current 26 to 32, takes effect Sept. 1 and will expire on Feb. 1, 2011.

Although the temporary increase in manpower is expected to cost the city $75,000 per officer, Chief Sobb noted that everyone expected to retire has 33 or more years of service, while the new hires will be paid entry-level wages.

Councilman Mark Luetke estimated the resulting savings at $90,000 annually. Chief Sobb added that retirements are likely to continue as a large group of hires from the 1970s reaches retirement age.

"We're going to be in a constant-hiring mode for the next 10 years or so," he said.

In other business, the Sylvania River Trail and a route either on or along the railroad right of way through Sylvania are priorities for development listed in a Sylvania Bike Network plan presented to council.

If approved, the plan would not require the city to spend any money on bike-route development.

But Mr. Luetke, chairman of council's economic development committee, said the plan would help coordinate Sylvania's bikeway development with that of the rest of Lucas County and also make Sylvania eligible for state and federal bikeway grants.

Planning for the River Trail is far along, with hearings held in April. Cheryl Zuellig, a landscape architect with Ann Arbor-based consultant JJR, said the next priority should be a trail along the Norfolk Southern railroad spur that runs through Sylvania or, if that track falls into disuse, a rails-to-trails conversion of its right of way.

Also identified for future planning are bike routes along Monroe Street and Alexis Road east of downtown, extension of the University/Parks Trail west of McCord Road, and possible improvements along King Road and Silica Drive to support bicycle use of those streets.

Acting as committee of the whole, council referred the document to the Toledo Area Metropolitan Area Council of Governments for preliminary review pending formal approval by council next month.

TMACOG must approve the plan for projects based on it to become grant-eligible.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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