PICKAWAY – Today is national safety forces across the nation, but here in Circleville Ohio our safety forces are asking for a levy to support them to basic levels. Having a conversation with the Safety forces last week over numbers they shared with the public of being short staffed and overworked. Chief of Police Shawn Baer says that they are losing good officers because of these issues.
Baer responded to some of the comments that were posted on Sciotopost about the levy information. The Chief said that one of the issues with staffing was simply that officers do not feel secure in their jobs here in Circleville and with other areas North, South, East, and West of us that pay more and offer a better staffed police force its a easy decision to leave. He did say that he’s had a few officers that said that once they were gone they missed Circleville.
“Most of the officers over the past year left for more pay, our starting pay is 19.67 per hour. One of our officers went to Hillard for a starting wage of 27.89, one to columbus for 27.02, one to Lancaster for 24.50, two to Pickerington for 25.97, and two guys because of the amount of overtime they felt that this would be standard across all agencies not just Circleville they left the field of law enforcement all together and went to work for UPS and one went back to a family business.”
“The positive thing is we do have some people that come back, we have a dispatcher for example that left for a higher paying job and came back because she missed working with the agency. We have had four employees in the last four years contact civil service to come back to us. Why, Because we treat people well,” Said the Chief.
“The guys like the environment of Circleville to work in, they just don’t like the heavy overtime,” said Baer, “The money was important but when you really talk to these officers what was more important was not working all the overtime. The overtime is so substantial that in an 80 hour two week work week our guys are breaking sometimes 120 hours. Officers do a 16 hour shift and 8 hours off, sometimes they will do four or five 16 hour shifts in a row. Its a burnout issue.”
Baer said that one thing they he wants the people to understand that when they talk about city finances, “Every single record is open with the police department, most certainly the financial records. The auditor has to be audited by the state every year. When it comes to money we can’t just move money from paying employees to buy a new vehicle or guns, or anything it just doesn’t work that way. We have to use the money based on the line items that the council approves, there are lots and lots of checks and balances. It would be hard pressed to figure out a way to do that honestly. We’ve just made cuts even year since 2008, every year our budget has went down and this year with the large cuts it was catastrophic for us on the amount of cuts we needed to make. It’s just like a home budget where if you didn’t make as much money last month on your paycheck you would have to make adjustment on what you spend at home. We have no waste to our budget, for example we had to rivet a piece of sheet metal to the floorboards of two of the cruisers because only carpet separated between the officer and the ground.”
Sadly Cheif Baer said, “that going into holiday times they can’t grant vacations because they don’t have the staffing to cover vacations. So we are overworking our guys and when they need a vacation they can’t take it because of the situation.”
Earlier this year City Council voted to cut the budget of the cities Fire department fund 207,911.00 dollars. 136,121.00 of those dollars unfunded all part time firefighters and a full time firefighter for half the year. The also will be reduced Travel/Transportation, Capital Outlay, Debt Services, Contractual Services, Supplies 68,011.00.
According to Circleville Fire Department they are also working heavy overtime that was covered by the part-time firefighters to the upwards of six days a week.
Whats the fix? According to the the Safety forces the levy is the fix. Circleville Chiefs both fire and police put their stamp of approval on this levy. The levy monies according to the levy language would only be able to be used for safety forces, getting staffing levels back up to basic coverage levels. The levy would also fall off in five years forcing the city to make efforts to provide additional fundings to cover the costs of the staffing in five years.
According to Citizens of a Safter Levy the cost of the levy would be about 17 dollars a month for citizens of Circleville or four dollars a week. Less than breakfast at McDonalds a week.
During pumpkin show Circleville Safety forces shared numbers and coverages they had during the Pumpkin Show. This did not include the number of people they assisted with lost children and lost vehicles during the pumpkin show.