On Nov. 7, Madison Township voters can vote on a proposed levy to decide whether or not they want police protection through a partnership with the Greenfield Police Department.
Dan Mathews, a longtime Madison Township trustee, said the township began looking into a solution several years ago because of the complaints from citizens who said they weren’t getting help from the sheriff’s office. After several years of people not getting the necessary law enforcement help, they moved away and others are poised to leave as well, pending the outcome of the vote, he said.
Over the last few years the township has explored the options like the township’s own police department or contracting with another police department, Mathews said, and investigated how to fund such a thing while finding the best option for the citizens of Madison Township.
Funding, he said, has been challenging to obtain. As the township’s general fund could not support something like the proposed levy, trustees looked into grants but couldn’t get any this time. The trustees have since worked on the millage and getting that down as low as possible for the Madison Township citizens’ need for law enforcement support.
“It’s the best bet we’ve got right now,” Mathews said.
The ballot language is simple. It explains that the proposed levy would generate an estimated $387,000 annually for three years. The levy would generate “at a rate not exceeding 8 mills for each $1 of taxable value, which amounts to $280 for each $100,000 of the county auditor’s appraised value…”
The ballot for Nov. 7 can be found in its entirety at www.boe.ohio.gov/highland/election-info/. Once on the site, click on the box marked “Ballots.” From there, choose “Townships” in the district category and then “Madison” in the district name. From the provided results, click on the ballot for Madison Township.
Should the levy pass, the money is solely to hire police officers, outfit them, train them, and provide the necessary equipment for those officers and the expanded police coverage of the whole of Madison Township.
In July, the Greenfield Police Department and Madison Township embarked on a six-month contract that gives the GPD jurisdiction in the township.
Working with Greenfield’s police department makes logistical sense since the GPD is a matter of minutes away from township citizens, Mathews said, but a deputy response from the county can take much longer.
“This is nothing against the sheriff’s department, not in any way,” Mathews said. What the township has put forth for the November ballot is something that would not only help ensure that Madison Township citizens have the law enforcement intervention they need, but something that would also alleviate some strain off the sheriff’s office due to its manpower shortages and the needs that take it all over the county.
“It’s important to note that Greenfield’s corporation line is just a little bit different,” said Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin. Greenfield’s corporation limits are oddly laid out. This means there are places in Greenfield that one might assume are part of the municipality but are not, like portions of Hillcrest Drive, Sunshine Drive and Child Street, to name a few.
“There’s a significant portion of land in Madison Township that’s not incorporated but gets Greenfield water and sewer,” Wilkin said.
For those that are new to the area, it would be an easy assumption to make that a home on the north side of Hillcrest Drive would receive its police protection from downtown Greenfield, but it wouldn’t be because a home on the north side of Hillcrest, and others like it, are not within Greenfield’s municipal limits and therefore are under the sheriff’s jurisdiction.
This initiative that has resulted in the upcoming levy was not something pursued by the village. Wilkin said, “It was leadership coming together to find a solution to a problem.”
That problem was the unmet need in Madison Township to have the necessary reach and timely response of law enforcement.
“We are all here for the citizens of this community,” Mathews said, even if the citizens don’t always see it that way.
The drugs and the theft and the crime, Mathews said, “drug work in the village means drugs move from the village and farther out into the township.” That’s something the residents don’t always seem to understand, he added. “When you clean up one area, it moves to another area. That’s why we are trying to do something for the entire township,” Mathews said.
He said the trustees are not comfortable with the millage that is being asked for with Issue 6, but when the township couldn’t get the grants and doesn’t have the funds to cover it, it’s the path that had to be taken to get what is needed.
“That’s the killer because we’ve started something we’d like to see move forward,” Mathews said. “And I feel for our citizens because they are the ones that suffer.”
Wilkin said there are some rumors going around that are not true. One of them, he said, is that this levy will generate $8 million for the village of Greenfield. It’s just not true, he said. The ballot spells out what is estimated to be generated.
Additionally, should Issue 6 pass, the millage is in arrears, and the village actually bears the expense at first, as no funds would be received from the levy until 2024.
Another rumor, Wilkin said, is that money from a levy would be used to build a jail in Madison Township to house Brown County inmates. That is also false. That amount of money wouldn’t come close to building a jail, Wilkin said, let alone touch the cost that would be needed to fund an actual working jail.
Something else Wilkin said he has heard is that all of this has been done on the sly, behind the backs and out of earshot of the public, but that is also not true. It has all been done in public meetings and voted on by the trustees in public, open session. “There are no back-room, closed-door deals,” Wilkin said. “This has all been done in public and it has only been done for the public and its protection.”
Mathews said the biggest issue seems to be about the cost. “To have the personnel that we actually need to cover the township, we’d have to have at least five people,” he said, adding that would cost around half a million dollars, but they are trying to do it with less people — something to get the millage down but still provide the needed coverage and help take the load off of the sheriff’s office.
While Greenfield is in Madison Township, the matter of the levy will be up to those that live outside of Greenfield’s corporation limits. If voters pass the matter, the village of Greenfield will provide the police protection and more officers will be hired, outfitted, trained and put on the job. If the measure doesn’t pass, then things go back to the way they were before the July contract.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the village of Greenfield.