Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goos presented his case for taking over city law enforcement duties before a meeting of the Glenwood City Council Public Safety Committee Tuesday, March 24, at City Hall.
During his presentation, Goos told council members and Mayor Dyle Downing that he believes he could save the city up to $200,000 by having his deputies provide the coverage the city currently receives from the Glenwood Police Department. Goos said if Glenwood were to sign a five-year contract for law enforcement coverage from his office, he would add additional deputies to his roster. Mills County currently employs nine deputies.
Goos was peppered with questions about his proposal from councilmen, the mayor and police chief John O’Connor, who plans to retire later this year.
Council member Clare Bangs asked, “If it takes us eight (officers) to run a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week shift, how can you do it with six deputies?”
Goos told Bangs he didn’t want to go into detail at a public meeting to explain how he would schedule hours for deputies, but did state, “I can give you one deputy per shift.”
City officials, insisting they would only consider Goos’ proposal if he could guarantee around-the-clock protection “equal to or better” than its existing coverage from the police department, expressed concern about whether deputies on duty are required by state law to respond to all 911 emergency calls throughout the county. Their concern is that Glenwood would be left without protection should an emergency occur elsewhere in the county. Assistant Mills County Attorney Eric Hansen said he was not aware of that requirement.
Goos said current Glenwood police officers would be given an opportunity to apply for the new deputy positions. Hansen said the standard application process would have to be followed. Responding to a question from Bangs, Goos said any officer hired from the Glenwood department would not be allowed to assume benefits based on their longevity as a city employee.
“We have to protect our employees,” Bangs told Goos.
Council members said talk of the sheriff’s plan has generated phone calls and comments from city residents who have opinions on the matter. Craig Florian said the majority of comments he’s heard are positive. However, Bangs said most of the people he’s heard from are opposed to the dismantling of the city’s police department.
O’Connor had declined to comment on the issue until having the opportunity to see Goos’ proposal in print. He got his first look at the plan at the public safety meeting and spoke up near the conclusion of the meeting.
“I do not think this is a good deal for the taxpayer,” O’Connor said.
Specifically, O’Connor said he doesn’t believe the sheriff’s proposal provides adequate around-the-clock protection for the citizen’s of Glenwood. He also stated that the financial savings to the city over five years would not provide adequate funds to reestablish a police department should the contract with the sheriff not be renewed. O’Connor said it would also be difficult to find quality officers who want to work for a city that dismantled its police department on a previous occasion.
Goos stressed to those in attendance that he was only at the meeting to present his proposal and there would be no hard feelings should the council and mayor decide to decline his offer.
“Please don’t think that I’m bullying myself around here,” Goos said.
Council members thanked Goos and said they would take the issue up again during a public safety meeting prior to the regular council meeting next Tuesday, April 14.