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Town debates effectiveness, cost of deputy

April 25, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

KEEDYSVILLE - Keedysville's mayor and two Town Council members say the town has received inconsistent coverage from Washington County sheriff's deputies.

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Now they must decide whether to continue paying for the Sheriff's Department resident deputy program.

For more than 10 years, the towns of Keedysville and Sharpsburg have shared police coverage. A Washington County deputy has patrolled the towns and the surrounding area 40 hours a week.

Cpl. Douglas White was the town's deputy from 1988 to 1996. He said he worked eight hours a day and spent an average of three hours in Keedysville, three hours in Sharpsburg and two hours patrolling the surrounding area.

If the town discontinues the program, a deputy or Maryland state trooper may have to travel from Hagerstown to the area, which could take 25 minutes or longer, he said.

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Councilwoman Yvonne Hope said she believes in paying for police protection, but she has heard complaints from residents about slow response times - sometimes up to 30 minutes.

Hope said she doesn't see why the town should pay for extra service if that's the case.

She said she called the Sheriff's Department with a trespassing complaint one Friday and was told no one could come out until Monday.

The councilwoman supports the program but feels "it needs to be redefined." She wants to know exactly where the town's money is going and when the deputy will be in Keedysville, she said.

A deputy's average response time is less than five minutes if he is in the area, according to White.

He said deputies are often called out of the town limits to the Lappans Crossroads area for incidents and that would make their response times longer.

"What they have to understand is that Keedysville is not a high crime area," and if they receive another call they have to respond, he said.

The hours the deputy is in each town is set by the mayor and council, he said.

He said the deputy for the town works five days a week with two days off, which are rotated.

White said a first sergeant with the Sheriff's Department met with Keedysville's mayor last week to discuss the program. Brandenburg could not be reached to confirm that Sunday night.

Assistant Mayor Matt Hull said he believes the current deputy, Kenneth Cain, is doing a good job but said he is wary because of past sporadic coverage.

"I don't know if we've gotten our money's worth in past years. But I'm encouraged by the new deputy," he said.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said he will meet with the Washington County Commissioners and Brandenburg in May to discuss ways Keedysville might be able to keep the deputy.

Each year Keedysville and Sharpsburg use property tax rebate money awarded by Washington County and budget matching funds to pay for one deputy to patrol both towns.

Keedysville received a rebate of $3,117 this year, an increase of 8 percent from the $2,880 it received in 1998. The rebate is based on the town's population of 464.

"The rebate keeps on growing and as it does we have to match it - I feel we can't afford to keep doing that," said Brandenburg.

Councilwoman Judith Kerns said Keedysville needs the resident deputy program.

"I think it's reassuring to see the deputy patrolling the area," she said. She said council will discuss the resident deputy program during the next meeting on May 3.

In addition to being a deterrent to crime, she said the deputy acts as a positive role model for Keedysville youth.

Councilman James Kerns said he also favors keeping the deputy in town.

"I think they offer a measure of prevention," said James Kerns, who is a retired Maryland State Police officer.

Whatever Keedysville officials decide, the town of Sharpsburg will stay in the program, even if that means picking up the entire expense, according to Mayor George Kesler.

"We'll pick up the tab as long as its reasonable," he said.

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