Darien tables police plans

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March 16, 2010
— At least two village board members on Monday were ready to turn down Sheriff David Graves' proposal for county-managed patrols in the village.

Still, the board voted to meet with Graves in April before making a final decision.

At the board's request, Graves in February presented a plan to provide full-time patrol services in the village. The start-up cost for the program would be $496,820, Graves said.

In a presentation last week to the village police committee and Monday night to the full board, Darien officer Brian Mair said the sheriff's proposal is too expensive for the village and doesn't provide the services residents get from village officers.

"This department was established in 1951," Mair said. "Over the years, officers have gained trust with the village residents. It's taken time to build these relationships."

The village budgeted $477,000 in 2010 to pay for police services. That cost includes a part-time secretary, a chief, four full-time officers and seven part-time officers, Mair said.

Although the sheriff's proposal was more expensive than what the village budgeted, it didn't include such positions as crossing guards and the part-time secretary, he said.

Graves and Village Administrator Marc Dennison have said county coverage could save money in the long run because the county has greater buying power for things such as equipment and insurance.

Several Darien officers were at the meeting and spoke against the sheriff's proposal.

Officer Chuck Lankford has worked in the department for 18 years. He argued that if the village contracted with the sheriff's office for village coverage, it would lose ownership of equipment.

If the village later changed its mind, he added, it could be cost-prohibitive to start a department again from scratch

"He (Graves) could hike the price up in the future," Lankford said. "You're stuck. You have to pay it because you can't afford to redo the department."

The officers asked the board to follow the wishes of a 2009 referendum in which residents voted to keep village police services by village officers.

"We want your support," Mair said. "We want the board to support us. We want to look forward to the future."

The police committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to recommend the village keep its own police department.

Board President Evelyn Etten made that motion at Monday night's full board meeting and board member Debi Olmstead seconded it. The two are on the police committee.

The board decided to meet with Graves first to talk about details of the proposal. The meeting could take place in April depending on Graves' schedule.

Such a contract would be the first in Walworth County. Graves has told the Gazette that if other municipalities would be interested in learning about options for county police services, he would be willing to talk about it.

The board in December started talking about how to move forward with its police department because Police Chief Steve DeVoy will resign in May. DeVoy and the village were involved in a legal battle throughout 2009 after DeVoy was suspended with pay.

DeVoy and the village settled before a hearing. The village will pay DeVoy $30,000 plus paid leave for six months on top of the 11 months he was paid while suspended and $35,000 for accrued holiday, vacation and sick time.

McCue votes end in ties

Darien Village Board member Bob Wenzel said Monday that temporarily replacing board member Craig McCue could prevent future 3-3 tie votes.

Two votes on the issue then failed in ties.

McCue suffered a stroke in August and has not been at board meetings since. However, he has indicated he wants to continue serving on the board.

McCue was re-elected to a second term last April that ends in April 2011. Board member Debi Olmstead said Monday he is a popular board member who should not be replaced.

Board member Kurt Zipp and Wenzel argued a replacement only would be necessary until McCue felt he was ready to come back to work on the board.

Board President Evelyn Etten's motion to strike the item from the agenda failed on a tie as did Zipp's motion to replace McCue.

The board took no other action on the issue.

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