Jerome to add public safety officer


Jerome Township is adding law enforcement.

Currently, Jerome and Millcreek townships partner to share the cost of three public safety officers (PSO). Jerome Township pays 75 percent of the cost, an estimated $235,975 for 2018, and gets 90 hours of dedicated law enforcement coverage a week. Millcreek Township pays 25 percent of the cost, an estimated $78,658 for 2018, and gets 30 hours of dedicated coverage.

Citing an increase in population, industry and expectations, more than a year ago Jerome Township officials began exploring the option of adding a fourth PSO.

Millcreek Township, however, has not seen the same level of development and officials feel it does not need an increase in law enforcement.

“They were very concerned about the obligation to increase staffing numbers because their revenue was not there to support the additional staff,” Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton said.

Jerome Township officials said they wanted to come up with a solution that would allow them to increase police protection and allow Millcreek to remain part of the partnership.

Recently, the two townships and the Sheriff’s Office negotiated an agreement to add a fourth PSO. Jerome Township will cover 80 percent of the cost and receive 128 hours of dedicated coverage weekly. Millcreek Township will pay 20 percent of the total cost, receiving 32 hours of dedicated coverage.

With the additional officer, Jerome Township will pay $335,113 in 2018 and Millcreek’s portion will increase to $83,778 for the year.

Patton said there is a chance the growth in Jerome Township could lead to additional staffing increases in 2018-2019.

While the agreement has been approved, it could be some time before it is implemented. Patton said he has struggled to fill vacant positions within his department. He said his office has already added eight new people this year. He said there are five positions— two positions created as part of the 2017 budget, a PSO to replace the officer moved into the dog warden position and two newly created school resource officer positions — in addition to the newly created fourth Jerome/Millcreek PSO.

“It’s all about making sure we have the right person,” Patton said. “We want to make sure we have the best possible candidate for Jerome Township.”

He said his office is actually searching for two Jerome/Millcreek PSOs. Pete Lenhardt has served as a PSO in Jerome and Millcreek townships for many years. Recently he was named the county’s new dog warden.

Patton said he will use what he calls “a rover” to fill in for Lenhardt until a replacement is hired. The rover works as a PSO wherever the position is needed to fill in for vacations and other staffing emergencies.

The sheriff has said it could be next year before some of the positions are filled.

“We want to be intentional,” Patton said. “It is a lengthy process, but we think that’s for the best. Obviously, one bad hire can ruin years of trust.”

Patton has repeatedly said he needs additional deputies to keep the county safe.

The Union County Commissioners had said they would consider funding to create and maintain an additional deputy as part of the 2017 budget, but wanted to see how the state budget treated local governments. The commissioners said a reduction in local government funding meant they “most likely are not going to fund that.”

They did say they would consider funding an additional officer as part of the next budget.

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