Millville’s contractual state police coverage cops Frankford’s attention

FRANKFORD – Frankford and Millville are miles apart in terms of community composition, business and revenue sources.

But the two southern Sussex County towns might soon be on the same page when it comes to police coverage.

Following an Oct. 17 presentation by town of Millville representatives on their contractual agreement with Delaware State Police, Frankford town councilman Greg Welch believes state police coverage is the route to take.

Greg Welch

“The state police option seems like something we could afford,” he said. “And it seems like a very good option. It had a lot of good aspects to it.”

Millville Town Manager Deborah Botchie, accompanied by councilman Peter Michel, made a presentation on the town’s police coverage at a special Frankford council meeting.

Their presentation focused on “what their experiences were as far as contracting with the state police to provide coverage and how happy that they are and the town residents are with it,” said Frankford councilman Marty Presley. “They covered the advantages of it and the small disadvantages of it. They gave a really good presentation.”

Frankford council also discussed the option of returning to the police chief/departmental route.

“We talked about what the cost would be to hire a new police chief in going forward,” Mr. Presley said. “We didn’t make any decisions. But I think we will probably be voting on that at the November meeting, about either going forward with hiring a new chief or contracting with the state police.”

Frankford is seeking to fill a police presence void created when Mark Hudson resigned as chief in late July.

Frankford was subsequently courted by Dagsboro on a unification proposal that Frankford officials say looks good on paper but apparently not in the pocketbooks of some tax-paying town residents.

Frankford officials announced Oct. 10 it would not pursue the proposal pitched by Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey that would have increased police patrols and coverage for the neighboring towns. Frankford’s obligation was projected to be $121,000 for its two-officer commitment. Dagsboro would have four officers in the unification of the two forces under single leadership, according to Chief Toomey’s plan.

“We can’t really afford to join with the unification of Dagsboro. That is what we’d like to do. All of us think that that is the best plan for both towns,” said Mr. Welch. “We really don’t have the revenue to do it. We looked at a property tax increase to pay for it. It showed like we’d need a 56-percent tax increase to pay for that and we just can’t put that on the people right now.”

“Most people I talked to are willing to pay their share of that. It would be like an extra $250 a year,” Mr. Welch added. “But they are all concerned about the people that can’t. And I understand that. There are definitely people that can’t.”

Frankford’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget includes about $77,000 budgeted encompassing a police chief and department operational costs.

Marty Presley

“What it kind of boils down to is how much of his (chief’s) time is actually spent on administrative tasks that would be covered by the state police? How much of that would be spent in court if he made arrests? How much time is vacation time, sick time?” Mr. Presley said. “So, we are trying to look at everything. But the figure we are getting from Millville is they are running around $86 per hour for (state police) coverage. They started out I think at 12 hours a week and they boosted it about a year ago. I think they are up to 20 hours a week now. Of course, they are a different animal because you know they have got so much transfer tax income that they use to pay for it. Of course, Frankford has nowhere near the transfer tax income they have.”

“Millville is paying for state police coverage from their transfer tax income,” said Mr. Welch. “They rake in like over $400,000 a year. We’re like $20,000, $25,000, $30,000 a year.”

Some years ago, Frankford contracted for police coverage with state police, Mr. Presley said.

Mr. Welch said the state police option to contract hourly coverage at $86 to $87 per hour is “not bad when you consider how much it costs to get one of their police officers to patrol for an hour, when you have to have a chief, when you have to have the whole infrastructure.”

Down the road Mr. Welch believes a unification would be best.

For now, he prefers state police coverage over hiring a chief, which he says simply does not work under the town’s current situation.

“We reviewed that and the cost wasn’t that much cheaper than the unification. And you’d only have one chief. So, it’s not really a functioning police force to have just a chief because he is doing all the administration and there is not anything else being done. It worked out because that’s all we had in the budget and we found somebody to fill the spot,” said Mr. Welch. “It just doesn’t make sense to have it like it was before. That (hiring a chief) was always intended to start a police force, get the revenue and get the police force working and then getting police officers on. But it never really worked out that way.”

The police issue like likely be on the agenda for Frankford council’s next monthly meeting, Monday, Nov. 6.

Should town council opt for state police coverage Mr. Presley believes the town’s small police cruiser fleet should be sold.

“We have three cars and some police equipment and stuff. If we decide to contract with the state police then we probably would be selling that equipment,” said Mr. Presley. “It costs us almost $7,000 a year just to keep auto insurance on them, let alone repairs and maintenance.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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