Sandusky city commissioner Diedre Cole recently suggested officials should begin exploring the possible benefits of merging the two departments into a single entity.
“Fiscal constraints are forcing everyone to make tough decisions and choices,” Cole said. “Would it not be prudent to investigate any and all possibilities that will facilitate our duty to serve the public and be diligent stewards of the resources entrusted to us?”
Police commanders depend heavily on state funding and area property taxes to fund their operations. Shortages to both income streams, however — Erie County’s collective property value dropped 5 percent, or $ 306 million to about $5.6 billion, in 2013 — have negatively impacted both departments.
In Perkins, the three trustees eliminated four police positions a month ago, reducing the fulltime work force from 20 to 16.
Trustees recently recalled one worker, bumping the full-time roster to 17.
Trustees have placed a p o l i c e l e v y o n May ’s ballot, seeking to generate $2 million a year for five years beginning in 2014.
With many changes on the horizon for both departments, talks of a merger would seem timely. In the coming weeks, Perkins police and other township workers will move into the new $3.3 million Township Hall on Columbus Avenue.
Sandusky leaders, poised to hire a new police chief, are also engaged in union negotiations that could prove costly, as officers are likely guaranteed a small raise sometime in the next three years. If Sandusky police merged with Perkins police, it could be the best answer to a 2011 city-commissioned study on the police department.
The $62,500 report concluded the Sandusky Police Department lacks leadership and runs inefficiently, while its headquarters on Meigs Street needs major upgrades.
City officials are also contemplating a levy to bolster funding for the police department, which has an annual budget of less than $5 million a year.
Regionalization of local government services is hardly a revolutionary idea — Sandusky and Perkins have joined up on several ventures, including police dispatching and public transportation.
Still, it would be a huge undertaking to combine the two police departments, which collectively employ about 80 people.