Any EL, HG police agreement must benefit both

THE NEIGHBORING VILLAGES OF Elkhart Lake and Howards Grove continue to work toward an agreement on sharing police services.

The two villages are just 10 miles apart on County A, but crafting an agreement that would extend the Elkhart Lake Police Department’s services to Howards Grove has been following a long and tortuous route.

The saga began almost two years ago when officials in Howards Grove – which does not have a police department – decided they were not satisfied with the services being provided under contract by the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department and terminated that contract.

Utilizing constables, which most of the townships and a few other villages in the county do, was also not a satisfactory method for Howards Grove officials.

The cost of establishing their own independent police department would likely be unjustifiably prohibitive for the village, despite the fact that Howards Grove is the largest village by population in the county.

It was then that Howards Grove officials turned to the west to Elkhart Lake, a smaller village that nevertheless has a long established police department.

Howards Grove officials thought they had agreement in place late last year, only to have it rejected by the Elkhart Lake Village Board.

The two sides continued their talks, however, and earlier this year reached an agreement for Elkhart Lake to provide ordinance violation enforcement services and making Howards Grove part of the Elkhart Lake Municipal Court.

The Elkhart Lake Police Department was able to provide some patrol services in Howards Grove this summer under a “Click It or Ticket” program grant to enforce the seat belt law.

That taste of patrol service has whetted Howards Grove’s appetite for permanent patrol service in their village, but Elkhart Lake officials understandably have some concerns, including cost and liability questions.

For good reasons, Elkhart Lake officials are reluctant to see their full-time officers using up any of their limited hours patrolling their neighboring village and do not want one of their patrol cars tied up in Howards Grove.

Thus, they would like to see Howards Grove provide their own police vehicle for Elkhart Lake officers to use while patrolling Howards Grove and would like assurances that they will not lose money or end up subsidizing services in Howards Grove.

There are other alternatives the village of Howards Grove could pursue, including a part-time police officer/chief position, similar to what the villages of Cascade and Waldo currently employ.

But Howards Grove officials have apparently decided that their best alternative is to pursue and execute a police patrol agreement with the village of Elkhart Lake and its police department.

For that to work, however, it must be an agreement that is beneficial as well – or at the very least not detrimental – to the village of Elkhart Lake and its safety and security.

Like the county highway that connects the villages of Howards Grove and Elkhart Lake, any police agreement between them must be a two-way street that serves both communities or it will not work at all.

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