N. Lewisburg may create its own police force


To many, North Lewisburg is a sleepy, little village that shouldn’t require $150K worth of police protection to serve 1,500 residents.
But if you find a man with a crossbow in your darkened garage, like one resident recently did, $100-per-person may start to feel like a bargain.
North Lewisburg is currently trying to determine how to proceed after its three-year police contract with the Village of Mechanicsburg expires in April. North Lewisburg is considering creating its own police department if the costs work out.
Mechanicsburg stepped in to provide dedicated coverage to the village for 80 hours per week after a similar arrangement with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department fell through in 2017.
Those extra hours of coverage paid dividends on Jan. 16 when a Lincoln Place resident called for police shortly after 8 p.m., reporting a man with a weapon in his garage. The officer arrived on the scene one minute after the initial call.
According to the report, the resident said he went to investigate noises coming from his garage, when he found a man with a crossbow. The resident then pulled out his own weapon, a gun, and the suspect fled into a nearby wooded area.
The responding officer reportedly found a pair of crossbows in the woods and set up a perimeter with other members of law enforcement as they waited for a K-9 unit to arrive to search the area. At this point, Andrew Schellenbaum, 35, 119 East Street, North Lewisburg, fell out of a tree 10 feet from the officer.
According to the report, the resident’s description of the suspect matched Schellenbaum. Despite temperatures around 25 degrees that night, the suspect told officers he was sleeping in the tree. The report indicates Schellenbaum is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Schellenbaum was arrested for criminal mischief, criminal trespass and theft, and transported to the Tri-County Regional Jail.
The incident highlights what North Lewisburg Cheryl Hollingsworth has said on repeated occassions, Mechanicsburg officers have provided the village with excellent coverage. But the future of the policing relationship between the two villages appears to boil down to price.
At the time the original contract was signed, Mechanicsburg came in with a price just above $100,000 per year, which was comparable to what the sheriff’s department was charging the village.
The newest estimate from Mechanicsburg puts the annual cost at just under $140,000 for 2020, increasing to more than $150,000 in 2021.
“That’s just too over the top,” Hollingsworth said at Tuesday night’s meeting of village council.
With North Lewisburg already providing the patrol vehicle for its officers, village officials began to compile numbers for operating its own force. The idea would be to hire a full-time chief and then staff other hours with a second officer, or combination of part-timers.
For comparable 80-hour coverage, the village believes it can staff its own force for $144,000 in 2020, and $108,000 in 2021. The reason for the original higher figure is startup costs, such as creating a secure area for evidence storage at the village municipal building.
Hollingsworth said her next step will be to talk with Mechanicsburg officials about the proposed contract before North Lewisburg zeros in on a decision about starting its own police force.

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