Rutlege develops police plan
Rutledge city officials are hoping they have devised a way to keep the city’s lone officer on the beat.
Following a special called meeting Monday afternoon, Mayor Bill Spann introduced his final recommendations to amending the city’s struggling police budget in an effort to provide a fourth year of service for the Rutledge Police Department and its sole employee Chief Roy Eitneier.
Despite the recommendations, Spann called the proposed move a "temporary solution".
The recommendations calls for the utilization of an expected $31,000 collected from fines and forfeitures over the course of the upcoming fiscal year, as well as an expected $22,000 that should result from an upcoming real estate sale of a lot owned by the city.
Spann proposed that the remaining money needed to provide for the expected $72,000 annual police department budget come from the sale of low-return CD savings accounts currently owned by the city.
In addition, Spann told the city council that the formation of a larger "public safety committee" would be in the city’s interest. The primary goal of that committee would be to raise as much money as possible to offset the amount of money required from the city’s savings accounts.
The committee will also be charged with developing a more "long-term" solution to financing the city’s police department along with the city council, according to Spann.
"If we can’t get a commitment from the people to return that money to the bank, then [continu
ing the police department] cannot be done," he said.
Council members seemed to agree with the proposed solution.
"We have already gotten a considerable amount of verbal support," said council member Michael McQuaide. "What we need now is significant financial support."
Other council members concurred, saying the solution sounded "reasonable".
The city will need to provide an additional $13,000 to $22,000 to provide for another year of service from the police department, even with the inclusion of $9,000 in general budget funds freed after the elimination of line items such as parks and recreation, and tourism and advertising budgets.
Another "town hall" meeting has been scheduled for April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Rutledge Volunteer Fire Department. Mayor and council will petition residents at that meeting for assistance in the formation of the proposed public safety committee. The council is also expected to vote on the proposed recommendations presented by Spann.
A city council meeting held last week drew over 40 concerned citizens that spent the majority of the meeting voicing their support for the continuation of the police department and Eitneier’s work.
In addition, city council members approved a motion to stage a mock referendum vote for Rutledge citizens. Residents who participate in the "straw poll" will voice their opinion on two matters: whether to increase property taxes in an effort to provide continued funding for the police department, and whether or not to support the incorporation of a proposed Municipal Option Sales Tax (MOST) into the city budget.
ion that would create MOST has not yet passed through the state houses.
"I think we owe it to the community to allow them every opportunity to voice their opinion," said McQuaide. Council members approved the motion to hold the referendum unanimously in a meeting held last Monday afternoon.
However, some council members did express concerns about the accuracy of such a poll and the likelihood of positive voter turnout.
"I think you would be lucky if you get a 25 percent turnout," said council member Tom Strott. "And I’m not sure the voter turnout would really represent a good cross-section of the Rutledge population."
The referendum is scheduled to take place on April 7 and 8 at the Rutledge City Hall building from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The results of the poll will not set any policy, but is intended to give council members a consensus idea of resident’s positions.