POWERS — Powers City Councilors agreed Tuesday night at its council meeting that its board will hear feedback from the public before making a decision on whether or not to pass a public safety levy for its police department.
The levy, which was proposed by Powers Police Chief Robert Baker, would pay for a second officer for the police department that would increase its productivity and coverage throughout the city.
According to Baker, the levy or possibly a public safety fee would charge each household within city limits a total of $150 a year. The fee would be collected through residence’s utility bill which would break down to about $16 a month.
“If we’re able to get a second officer we would extend our coverage to the entire week, response times would be quicker and we’d be able to cut back on overtime,” said Baker. “It would also reduce our petty theft by having an officer on patrol at all times.”
Currently, the department only consists of Baker who has been in his position for about seven months. At the council meeting, he talked about the responsibilities of the position and how one person alone simply cannot do it all.
“I am taking on the position of essentially five different people,” Baker said. “I am doing the tasks of a records clerk, an administrator, patrol work and an evidence technician. There is just not enough time in the day to really do what needs to be done.”
Mayor Robert Kohn expressed his concerns with the proposed levy and his hesitation to support it. Kohn acknowledged its benefits toward the city, but was unsure how citizens would receive it. He was also wary of adding the fee to residence’s utility bill being that rates could potentially rise with the installation of the city’s new wastewater plant.
The council discussed potentially partnering with other law enforcement agencies for grants, having volunteers conduct door-to-door surveys of people’s opinion on a levy and bringing it up for discussion once more at a town hall meeting and a follow up workshop session.
“I’m not being negative and I’m not saying it wouldn’t be good for the community to have it, but we really need to think how we would fund it,” said Kohn.
Last month, Baker posted on the Powers Police Department’s Facebook page a reminder to citizens of the procedures involved with reporting a crime. According to Baker, citizens would visit his private home to make a report instead of calling the county’s dispatch center.
“The way things have been down in this town for so long is that the citizens were used to calling their former police chief directly and were not properly reporting crimes,” said Baker. “When I took over in June, I made it mandatory that people would call dispatch so that there would be a record of the call and a way to track what’s going on.”
According to Baker, in 2017 the county’s dispatch center recorded receiving a total of 331 service calls from the city of Powers. From Jan. 1 to June 20 of last year, he said it recorded receiving a total of 53 calls and from June 20 to Nov. 6, it recorded a total of 495 service calls.
The arrival of a second officer could potentially alleviate this issue, he said. Baker said he is hoping to gather volunteers to conduct a survey and get initial feedback from citizens by the end of the month. Once this information is collected, the city council will revisit the levy and schedule a town hall meeting.