By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff-
DEXTER — There was no recommendation Tuesday from an ad hoc committee to eliminate the local police department. Rather, the committee recommended that it and other public safety functions receive priority funding during budget deliberations.
That is in sharp contrast to what some residents had feared the committee would do. A group of residents told the council this summer that they thought the motive behind the formation of a Public Safety Ad Hoc Committee was to eliminate the police department.
The ad hoc committee, appointed by the council, was asked to review public safety functions and to make recommendations in an effort to streamline government while maintaining quality service. The committee earlier had completed its study of the ambulance service and the fire department. The committee’s full report and recommendations are expected to be presented to the Town Council in November. It will be up to the council whether or not to accept the recommendations.
In addition to priority funding for the police department, the committee recommended that adequate wages and benefits be offered to remain competitive with other agencies and that a “cops in school” program be explored. The committee hoped that the school district would help fund the latter program since the school district dropped funding for drug awareness education.
The Town Council is faced with declining revenues, higher fixed costs and rising school and county appropriations. Rather than raise taxes last year in the wake of the closing of Dexter Shoe Co., the council chose to further delay some capital improvement projects and purchases and eliminated cost-of-living increases.
Town Manager Robert Simpson told the committee that, in effect, the town was operating on 1997 dollars. “We’re dealing with less money now than we were in 1997,” he said.
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