Wiseman pleads to keep officers
By Jane Beathard
London Police Chief Dave Wiseman asked city council on Thursday to reconsider a proposed 15 percent cut next year in his department’s budget.
Council will likely approve that budget in November.
“Cuts are inevitable,” Wiseman said. “But not all city departments are being cut equally.”
According to city auditor Katie Hensel, closing the municipal pool will reduce the parks and recreation allocation by 41 percent. A fire protection contract with Somerford Township mandates only an 11 percent budget cut for the fire department. The city’s three boards and commissions will receive 38 percent less money in 2013 than in 2012, but rarely use all allocated funds.
She acknowledged the police department will suffer the greatest overall impact from reduced funding.
London’s draft budget for 2013 cuts money for police operations and personal services from $1.9 million to $1.6 million. Most of that dollar amount goes to salaries and benefits.
“Our only option is to cut personnel,” Wiseman said.
A loss of nearly $300,000 in funding translates to five fewer officers patrolling London streets.
“We won’t be able to keep two officers on the road at all times,” Wiseman said.
It also means no police presence at the annual Strawberry Festival, Jazz & Ribs Fest and Old Fashion Christmas.
Wiseman urged council members to assess community needs and avoid across-the-board reductions.
“You need to prioritize as to needed services,” he said.
Council member Pat Closser agreed.
“Do we need a (full time) parks and recreation director if the pool closes?” Closser asked.
He said keeping London’s streets safe should top the priority list.
Council member Stan Kavy said it’s important to protect citizens, but few options remain for belt tightening.
“We have no place left to cut,” Kavy added.
Council member Dick Minner said the city is burdened with the cost of maintaining too many buildings.
“We’ve got too much property,” Minner said. “We’re heating locations we don’t need to heat.”
He urged selling some buildings and consolidating city offices in the former London Primary School at the corner of East High and Walnut streets.
London will save money next year on building inspections, according to safety-services director Steve Hume.
Hume told council members the city will contract with Columbus-based Asebrook & Co. for inspections and eliminate the full-time supervisor’s position in the building and zoning department. A clerk and part-time code enforcement officer will staff the department.
Hume expects the restructuring to save at least $40,000 next year.