City Grapples with Cuts

DSC 0014A Breakdown of Where Council Stands
Members of New Carlisle City Council face a difficult decision of what cuts to make in order to keep the city in the black at the end of 2015.  Because the city needs to make between $250,000 and $300,000 in cuts to operate efficiently, the majority of councilmen seem to be in favor of cutting back to just two city deputies, which will cut almost $200,000 per year.  

Council met in a work session on Monday, January 12 to discuss what they believed to be the best course of action for the city, with the majority of the discussion centering around whether or not to cut back to two deputies from four.  Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly attended the meeting to share his thoughts on the matter.  Kelly said while the city of New Carlisle would continue to be served by his department in cases of emergencies when no city deputies are on-duty, he added that of all the calls received by his county deputies, more than 60 percent of them are from New Carlisle.

“The taxpayers of Clark County are supplementing the city of New Carlisle,” Kelly said of instances when contracted New Carlisle deputies are not available to respond to calls so county deputies take them instead. “We can’t continue to spend 62 percent of the calls here…that’s a whole lot of time without having a contract deputy here but service is provided anyway,” said Kelly. “We will support you in every way we can, but there’s a breaking point for us as well.”

Kelly insisted that emergency calls in New Carlisle would still be handled immediately, even when city deputies are not available. “As God as my witness, we’re going to be out here—we will work with you,” said Kelly. “In a time when we’re all forced to do more with less, we need progressive thinking and merging,” he said, adding that a delay could result in non-emergency calls, but noted that crimes-in-progress such as domestics or active violent calls would be treated with precedence.

Kelly also noted that the contract between the city of New Carlisle and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which has been in existence for more than 34 years, was the first such scenario in the United States.  The relationship of the city and the county is now a model in other communities across the country, according to the Sheriff.

Sharing a Deputy with

Bethel Township:

Kelly expressed his desire for the city to look into sharing a deputy with Bethel Township, saying he believed it would be beneficial to both municipalities once the details were arranged.  Currently, Kelly said the Bethel Township deputy will assist New Carlisle deputies with backup if needed, and New Carlisle deputies in-turn provide backup for the Bethel Township deputy when he is in-need of assistance as well.

Councilman Rick Lowrey rejected the idea of sharing with the township, saying the shared deputy would have “too many bosses,” and that because the two entities already support each other, that he did not see the point in splitting a deputy.

“I think as far as sharing a deputy goes, that you’re just going to have too many bosses,” Lowrey said. “It’s a recipe for disaster—we are already sharing a deputy, why complicate it with all the paperwork?” he asked.

“Cost sharing is the reason,” answered Mayor Lowell McGlothin, who said he would be in favor of sharing a deputy with Bethel Township if the arrangements could be properly drawn-up.

Councilman John Krabacher said he too would be in favor of meeting with the Board of Bethel Township Trustees to see if such an arrangement could be made concerning sharing a deputy. “I like the idea of sharing a deputy…so long as we work out the maintenance, vehicles, and all the particulars,” Krabacher said.

Councilman Ethan Reynolds also said he would be in favor of splitting a deputy with the township, having suggested the idea late last year.

Councilman Bill McIntire did not express his opinion on sharing a deputy, but asked Sheriff Kelly if a “mechanism was in-place” to ensure that both the city and the township received equal coverage in the scenario.  Kelly said all of those details would have to be worked out by the Sheriff’s Office’s legal department, but noted that many of the same criminals commit crimes in Bethel Township as well as New Carlisle.

McIntire was also concerned that less police coverage would invite more criminals to the area, which law enforcement has already deemed a “hotbed” of drug activity due to its location.  “I’m worried that cutting officers will stop the prevention of crime,” McIntire said. “Does less coverage bring in more crime?” he asked.  Kelly said that fewer officers would of course mean less police presence in the city, but assured McIntire that the Clark County Sheriff’s Office would continue to serve New Carlisle.

Amenities Versus Protection:

Councilmen went back and forth discussing whether or not to consider cutting city amenities such as the swimming pool and the WestCat bus before looking to police cuts.  City Manager Kim Jones said she interpreted the voters’ rejection of the half-percent income tax increase on the November ballot as their way of saying they did not want to maintain police coverage in the city.

“By them voting no in November, they’re saying they don’t want increased police coverage—that’s what they’re telling us is that they want the cuts,” Jones said.

The five-year, half-percent income tax levy would have generated $500,000 to police and street expenses.  Last month during a meeting, council members debated the effectiveness of the way the levy was advertised, squabbling over the “safe streets” fliers that were distributed, with some council members saying the propaganda was not clear enough in promoting the issues equally.

“When they voted it down, they voted against police and streets—it wouldn’t be fair,” said Councilman McIntire of assuming that voters rejected police coverage alone. “I think we should entertain other avenues to streamline the General Fund…nickels and dimes can add up to serious money,” he said.

The fate of the city’s swimming pool has been much-discussed as of late, with council members divided on what to do with the community pool, as it has continued to lose revenue most every year.

Councilman Dick Zsambok said the pool lost approximately $91,000 over the past two years.  “I don’t mind the pool being open, but it needs to support itself 100 percent,” said Zsambok.  “It’s only serving three to five percent of the community,” he stated.

Swimming pool Manager Valerie Herdman said the weather single-handedly determines the pool’s business each summer.  She said she had created new methods of bringing business to the pool via community days and pool parties, and insisted that she always followed her budget closely.  Herdman pleaded with council to understand the significance of the pool in New Carlisle, saying it was the only thing left in town for children to do.

Zsambok said he also felt the WestCat public bus service to be a waste of the city’s money.  “I don’t want to support WestCat anymore,” he said. “I’ve heard we’re getting less than three riders per day.”

Rick Lowrey echoed Zsambok’s thoughts on the busing, saying he believed the city was “throwing money out the window” on the service. “We need to get rid of that,” Lowrey said of WestCat.

“It’s $4,000 per year,” said City Manager Jones in defense of the bus service. “If you let it go, we’ll never have it out here again,” she warned.

“There’s a reason there hasn’t been a bus out here in 40 years,” Lowrey countered, telling Jones not to take his opinion personally.

“I do take it personally because I worked very hard on getting that out here,” Jones said. “It takes more than two years to get it started,” she said.

Jones said the contract for WestCat would be up for renewal again in March, and told Zsambok that if New Carlisle pulls out of the contract, that it will “kill the project.”

What Happens Next

At the end of last Monday’s work session, City Manager Jones asked the councilmen for their respective opinions on deputy cuts.  The matter will likely come to a vote in the upcoming weeks.

Zsambok said he believed the city should cut back to two deputies.  Mike Lowrey agreed with Zsambok, saying he hoped the city could replace the other two deputies in May if the new income tax levy passes.  Rick Lowrey also recommended cutting to two deputies after hearing the Sheriff say that New Carlisle would still receive service from his department, though not before chastising himself and all of council for allowing the situation to result in cuts to the city’s protection.

“This didn’t start last week or last month—it started a long time ago,” Lowrey said. “This is all of our faults—it shouldn’t have come to this point where we’re talking about cutting our deputies.”

Krabacher agreed with Zsambok and the Lowreys on cutting to two deputies, but McIntire was reluctant, saying he “wasn’t completely sold,” as the situation could potentially invite more criminals to the area. “I’m not in favor of cutting to two deputies,” McIntire stated.

Reynolds would not provide Jones with his opinion on the matter, claiming that polling members during a work session was in violation of the Sunshine Law.  Jones told him she was just asking for “general direction,” but Reynolds said he would provide his input at the next regular session, as doing so in work session was “illegal.”

The New Carlisle News will continue to cover the New Carlisle deputy cuts issue and provide more details as they become available.

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