Future of Attica police debated

ATTICA — Officials and citizens in Attica discussed the future of police coverage at a village council meeting Thursday evening.

Councilman Louis Sanders said they were disappointed the levy failed at the ballot Tuesday. According to unofficial results, 174 voters rejected the 5-mill additional tax levy and 152 voted for it.

“I thought about it when the levy was voted down and people don’t realize that more crime is going to happen now,” he said. “I also thought of how for Halloween every year (the police department is) out there watching out for all the kids and how a lot of the ones that voted no are the ones with kids.”

Attica Police Chief Keith Turner said history was repeating itself in 2018 because many people don’t want to come in and get informed on the issues or ask questions.

“I think it was in 1982 when we disbanded the police department here for two years. People didn’t like the service that they got then, but obviously, just like anything else in history, if you don’t learn from your past mistakes, history will repeat itself and that’s what’s happening today,” he said.

Councilman George Yakoubian said there was a misconception that the levy “was a trick” and the department had plenty of money to run on and the levy was just “extra money.” He said the police department has operated on two 3-mill levies for more than 20 years and while they tried to make that work, it couldn’t anymore. To fund the department, Yakoubian said council decided to seek additional revenue with the 5-mill levy Tuesday. The levy also was rejected in the spring.

“The levy that is still current will expire at the end of the year. This was a vote to replace that levy. You don’t get to keep the old levy if you can’t pass the old levy. That’s not how it works,” he said.

Yakoubian said the other police levy is in effect until the end of 2019, but it is not sufficient enough to maintain a police department. While that levy is to be on the ballot in May, the police department will still have to close, he said.

When asked what citizens will have to fall on not having a local police department, Yakoubian said they will have to call the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office. He said that if people call 911, law enforcement still will show up.

In regards to contracting with the sheriff’s office, Attica Mayor Bryan Shock said if they don’t have the money to run their own police department, he’s not sure where they would get the money for the contract. Sanders said he did not want to contract with the sheriff’s office because of contracts the village had with them years ago.

Yakoubian said they couldn’t even start the conversation about contracting with other law enforcement because the future of the other levy is unknown. He was unsure what the village would do if the levy passed if there is no police department to fund.

Shock said whatever money comes in will go into the police fund and that’s where it will sit because it can’t be used for anything else. Yakoubian said he also wasn’t sure if since the fund was specifically to fund the police department if they would even be able to use that money to contract with other law enforcement.

Turner said council needed to come up with a solution of what they want to do. He said he knows they don’t have the money to carry over for next year and that they will have to close the police department Dec. 31 no matter what, but he still suggested seeking the levy next year. Turner said a lot of people think the department operates 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, but it is not. He suggested in May, putting a 10-mill levy on for seven years, or if people want a full-time department, putting a 17-mill levy on for 11 years.

“You’re not going to be able to put the 3-mill on because you already know you can’t operate on that. And you know next year’s is up and at the end of 2019. If they vote that down you have no money, you already stated that. So, here’s the option: You go for the whole hog or you do nothing at all and pray that everything works out.”

Yakoubian said if 5-mills was too shocking for people, he’s not sure if anything more than that would work.

Councilman Kirk Stanfield suggested passing a $5 monthly head tax and call it protection money. He said council should do it by emergency legislation and starting the first of the year, everybody in the village would pay $5-a-month head tax, which would cover it. There was no second.

While nothing was decided at the meeting, Yakoubian said village council would continue to look at alternative options for police coverage.