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Third officer up in air

May 30, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

SMITHSBURG - Whether to hire a third police officer was on the minds of residents who attended a public budget hearing at Smithsburg Town Hall Tuesday evening.

Five people, including former Mayor Mickey Myers, her husband Homer Myers and former Councilman Dave Williams spoke out against increasing the size of the police department.

"I don't believe we need it. We need more statistics, I don't think we have serious crime," said Myers.

She said any extra money the town has should be spent on library and parks projects.

Myers said the town needs to stabilize its police department before considering enlarging it.

Mayor Tommy Bowers, who said he favors hiring another officer, presented council with two budgets: One that included a third officer and one without.

"I believe we should have a proactive police department instead of a reactive police department," he said.

The budget that includes funds for an extra officer allots $78,500 for police salaries for fiscal 2001, compared to the $61,200 budgeted for fiscal 2000.

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The budget excluding a third officer designates $66,000 for police salaries for fiscal 2001.

"I hope the mayor and council will take a hard look about whether we need a third police officer," said Homer Myers.

Williams suggested that the town watch the crime trends over the next year to see if another officer is merited.

Marjorie Lucassen spoke in support of adding an officer before crime in the town gets worse.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should be thinking about that instead of waiting until something happens," she said.

Councilman Jerome Martin admonished the public for not attending the budget hearing.

Martin said he continues to oppose hiring a third officer and would like to see surplus funds spent on town projects like the library and parks.

He suggested the town consider putting a new library on land unsuitable for development at Veterans Park.

Martin said he didn't think Smithsburg Council could make a decision about hiring a third officer until the police chief matter is settled.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Mann agreed with Martin and suggested the subject be revisited next year.

Police Chief Ralf Berger, who attended the budget hearing, was hired conditionally pending completion of a background check, which is overdue.

Jake Johnson was the only council member to speak out at the meeting in favor of hiring a third officer, although he said he continued to have reservations about the stability of the police department.

Councilman Mike Rohrer thanked those who attended the meeting and told them their "comments haven't fallen on deaf ears."

He refused to say where he stood on issues of hiring a third officer and the police chief but said he didn't think the two subjects were contingent on one another.

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