By Holly Zachariah, The Columbus Dispatch
Original publication date: Aug. 25, 2011
MOUNT STERLING, Ohio — Chief Mike McCoy, now the lone police officer in the village of Mount Sterling, says he developed plans to cut his budget and save his force, but nobody would listen.
After the Village Council voted Monday to lay off every dispatcher and officer except McCoy because there was no money left to pay them, several officials said that the chief had long been told to get his budget under control and hadn’t.
McCoy initially declined to address the accusations, saying he had been ordered not to talk about it. But yesterday he said he feels like he’s being thrown under the bus.
“I answer to the mayor and to council, and I can’t spend a penny of money in this department without someone else approving it,” McCoy said. “To hear that I am being blamed here, that’s not only unfortunate, it’s unfair.”
He says he knew the village was nearly broke. So early in the year, he went to Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin to see whether Sabin would take over the dispatch duties for the village’s police and fire departments. The move would have meant four full-time and two part-time jobs lost in Mount Sterling but would have saved tens of thousands of dollars and likely the police officers’ jobs, McCoy said.
Through Monday, the village has spent $84,900 on police salaries and overtime and $53,461 on dispatchers.
The sheriff said he thinks those conversations with McCoy about dispatch duties likely took place in January and again in the spring. He said he had talked to Mayor Charlie Neff about the possibility, too.
“There were multiple conversations,” Sabin said. “For some reason, we’d get to a point where I heard, ‘never mind’ and nothing ever came of it.”
McCoy said Neff always stonewalled.
Neff, who handed in a resignation letter on Tuesday that has yet to be accepted by the council and which he might rescind, said yesterday that McCoy did make some suggestions early on. At that time, Neff said, he wanted to go another direction.
He thought the chief had too many officers on duty at certain times, and he first wanted that to be adjusted. In the end, Neff said, no one could come to terms on anything.
Council President Lowell Anderson said no formal proposal to outsource dispatching was ever brought to the table.
McCoy said he doesn’t know what comes next. Sabin has pledged to handle the safety of the village, with the help of McCoy and unpaid auxiliary officers.
Scott Jewett, owner of the local grocery, has planned an all-day fundraiser for Saturday and pledged $35,000 of his family’s money if the council will bring the police officers back to work.
Sabin, meanwhile, said now is a good time to review all the options. Many other county sheriffs have contracts with villages or townships to provide deputies full-time for a fee.
Sabin plans to make such a proposal to Mount Sterling, which has about 1,800 residents, and see whether he could provide round-the-clock protection for less than it took to run a full-time department.