Shared police patrol proposal deserves further study

SHARED SERVICES BETWEEN LOCAL governments can be a great idea – if they’re well thought out and planned right.

However, when they’re not well-planned or poorly executed, shared services can end up doing more harm than good and costing all involved – governments and taxpayers alike – more while providing less service.

The village of Howards Grove is the latest local government to look into chances to share services with another nearby community.

In this case, the service is police patrol services and the village’s target is contracting for patrol services with the village of Elkhart Lake, 10 miles to the west, from their police department.

At present, like most villages and townships in the county, Howards Grove contracts for patrol services from the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department.

That means, in addition to their general law enforcement duties throughout the county, the Sheriff’s Department dedicates a certain number of hours each month for one deputy to be assigned specifically and solely to the village of Howards Grove at a fixed charge.

The Sheriff’s Department has similar contracts with a number of other villages and towns throughout the county. It means those municipalities have at least a set number of hours each month when law enforcement patrol services are certain to be available for enforcing ordinance and other violations and keep the peace, all at a set charge.

While each of the county’s three cities – Plymouth, Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls – have their own independent police forces, only two villages – Elkhart Lake and Kohler – can say the same.

In the case of Elkhart Lake, the reality of a large tourist industry and a large number of visitors to the village each year was the impetus for creating a local police department. In Kohler, it was primarily the presence of one of the county’s largest employers, the Kohler Co., and a history of labor and industrial strife that led to the creation of a local police department.

Neither of those are true in Howards Grove or the other villages and towns across the county.

But Howards Grove officials decided an alternative to the Sheriff’s Department was needed, and they turned to nearby Elkhart Lake as a better choice.

Howards Grove was ready to move forward with a contract calling for 10 hours a week of patrol service by Elkhart Lake officers in Howards Grove, at a cost less than what they were paying to the county.

However, Elkhart Lake officials weren’t ready yet to ratify the agreement, citing the need to study the proposal further before agreeing.

They were right to wait, as they had more questions than answers at this point and the targeted date of Jan. 2 to begin the service didn’t leave adequate time to determine all the answers.

There are many questions of logistics and costs that would need to be answered before such a service might be implemented, but both villages should move ahead with answering those questions.

A study committee, comprised of officials from both villages as well as the Elkhart Lake Police Department, should be formed to begin examining the proposal and all alternatives right away, so that the issue can be resolved in time to implement it with the 2018 budget year.

It could work, but only if done right, with proper and thorough study and consideration.

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