- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—WILLARD — The city’s police force will soon return to normal staffing when Jeremy Draper’s replacement is hired, City Manager Shawn Tappel said.

The detective has left the department to become Huron County Prosecutor Daivia Kasper’s investigator, leaving the force at 14 officers.

Tappel has said he’s about to hire the detective’s replacement.

During a recent council meeting, councilman David Sattig said voters approved a levy expecting the department to be fully staffed and he was disappointed that hasn’t been the case.

City finance director Sue Johnson addressed the issue during Monday’s council meeting.

Sattig said he doesn’t dispute the numbers in Johnson’s report, but council was led to believe that with the last levy passed, the department would have 16 full-time officers. Sattig added council has never specified a specific number of employees for any city department to be fully staffed.

“We’re probably where we should be” in terms of officer staffing, Sattig said.

Johnson said voters passed the original levy in 2007. It stipulated, she said, that “funds were to be used to hire additional personnel in the police department. Nothing specified that the personnel hired were to be officers, nor did it state how many were to be hired.

“However, based on the amount of tax dollars we were expecting to collect, we projected we could hire three new employees. Let me also add that ‘full staffing’ of the police department was a total of 19 employees (four dispatchers and 15 officers) from 1994 to 2004. Staffing levels decreased to 16 by the year 2006, which is one reason the tax levy was put on the ballot.”

Johnson said city officials added three officers and a dispatcher in 2008 and one officer left that year, reverting staffing levels to 19.

“One more officer left in 2009, but two more were hired, putting us at our highest staffing levels ever at 20,” the finance director said. “Two officers left in 2010 and two more in 2011, putting us back at our lowest level of 16. Two officers were hired in 2012, bringing us back to 18.”

The original tax levy was a five-year measure, beginning on Oct. 1, 2007 and ending Sept. 30, 2012.

“When the newest tax levy was passed in 2013 (collections beginning Jan. 1, 2014 and ending Dec. 31, 2018), the ordinance language stated that it was for costs associated with the continued employment of the additional personnel hired by the police department pursuant to the original ordinance.”

Johnson said in 2013, one officer was hired, while two left that a year, “putting our staffing levels at 17.”

In 2014, Willard hired an officer and lost an officer, bringing the staff to 17.

“This year we hired an officer and a dispatcher which brought us back up to a full staff of 19,” Johnson said. “After hiring those two, one officer resigned (Draper) and will be replaced soon (a test was given on July 14).”

Johnson said with the hiring of the latest officer, the police department will be back to full staff at 19, “which was the intention of the original ordinance in 2007.”

In other business:

—Council voted to vacate the east-west and north-south alleys located within St. Joseph Cemetery.

—Council voted to annex 20.7897 acres of land into the city. On that land will stand an independent living facility across from Mercy Willard Hospital. The Slessman family, of Willard, gifted the land to the Mercy Health Foundation, which is leasing it to Trilogy Health Services LLC, which owns Willows at Willard. Foundation president Marsha Danhoff has said the building will comprise 15 units.

—Tappel reported the maintenance crew has finished the curbs on Woodland Avenue and replaced some panels under the Tiffin Street underpass.

—Tappel said “hopefully” the U.S. 224 widening project will be complete by the end of September.

—Tappel reported next week city officials will focus on business appreciation.

“We will be visiting all of our businesses,” he said. “We will be looking for input from them on how to better our community and what we can do for them to help them flourish.”

—The city manager reported the maintenance department replaced “numerous concrete panels” on Cottonwood Drive “and will continue to replace panels as time allows. I want to thank them for all the great work they do.”

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(c)2015 the Norwalk Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio)

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