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Silverton Asks For County Commission's Help In Dispute With Sheriff's Office

Tana Weingartner
A police interaction in Silverton. Hamilton County provides police in the village, but has reduced its presence at the village's town hall.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's office is still providing police patrols in Silverton. But residents and officials are upset the department moved some personnel out of the village's town hall and moved county-owned vehicles to another location.
The two sides have been working on a new contract for the patrol services for nearly a year without success. 

Silverton Vice Mayor Shirley Hackett-Austin addressed the county commission meeting Wednesday about the impasse.

"We are asking the Board of County Commissioners to hit the reset," Hackett-Austin said. "Please intervene in this matter and help us resume discussions to find a fair, responsible and sustainable solution for all of our shared residents."

Mayor John Smith was also surprised by what happened on Sept. 26.
"The action of the patrol division on Sept. 26 really speaks volumes," Smith said. "We were told basically to take it or leave it. We are fully aware of Hamilton County's fiscal challenges. We're here to help and we're willing to pay more. But we cannot be asked to pay more than our fair share.  And that is what the current proposal expects."

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said in a statement that the sheriff's deparment has continued to provide police protection services, including police patrols.

"By continuing to provide police protection services for the Village of Silverton for nearly one year, the Sheriff has not taken a 'take it or leave' approach," Neil wrote. "The Sheriff is making efforts to minimize exposure to liability for both the Sheriff's office and the county while also continuing to provide police protection for the Village of Silverton."

Neil said the department will continue patrols as both parties work towards a resolution.

County commission President Todd Portune said he's surprised and disappointed county assets were removed without any communication with Silverton officials. Portune is asking for a meeting with all the parties soon to work on a solution. The sheriff's department did not respond to an e-mail seeking a comment on the contract dispute.

The village said it's willing to pay more for county police patrols, but has concerns with what it calls inaccurate rates in the proposed contract.

Silverton Village Manager Tom Carroll said this year the village expects to reimburse the county sheriff just under $800,000 for its services. He said under the proposed new contract, the amount would have increased to $910,000.

Carroll said the county offered a three-year contract with a total cost of between $2.6 and $2.8 million.

He said the department had a noticeable presence at the Silverton town hall prior to Sept. 26, and now that's been reduced to a single lieutenant and deputies stopping there to work on reports.

The village's contract with the county was terminated in December, but the agreement calls for patrols to continue while work on a new contract continues, or the village re-establishes its own police department.

A county official said the sheriff provides services to several communities, but those municipalities and townships don't pay the full cost for the services.

The county commission had warned earlier this year that with a looming budget deficit, local jurisdictions would likely be asked to pay more for the patrol services.