Town set to hold police referendum
After the town board voted unanimously to hold the referendum asking if the town should eliminate its police department and court, members of a citizen committee said they preferred the town hold two separate referendums for police and court.
Chairman Bryan Meyer appointed the committee in May to investigate the police department and court. The committee recently turned in its report but did not include committee members’ opinions in their findings.
Committee members spoke up after the vote because they felt they weren’t given the chance to offer opinions before the vote.
“The committee feels there’s enough evidence and enough information to separate the two questions,” said Larry Clift, committee chairman.
The committee found the town could contract with Rock County or a nearby community to run municipal citations if it decides to abolish its court. If it contracts with Rock County, the county would charge $5 per citation and not return the fines.
The town also has several options if it decides to eliminate or reduce the police department, the committee found. It could hire a code enforcement officer, reduce the police department to one member or contract with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office or another local community to patrol the town.
The village of Footville, for example, contracts with Rock County to patrol the village 100 additional hours a month at a cost of $53,000 a year, more than twice the town of Milton’s police department budget.
The cost to the town for extra patrolling would vary depending on how much patrolling the town requests.
Committee members said residents might want to keep the court and abolish the police department or vice versa.
Meyer and supervisors Marian Trescher and John Traynor indicated they would have voted for separate referendum questions if they knew the committee’s opinion before the vote.
“On the budget it’s separate issues, so why shouldn’t it be separate issues on the referendum?” Traynor asked.
But supervisors Sue Gavigan and Michael Murphy said the board should stick to the decision it already made.
“I think that’s a bad practice to start changing votes because people changed their minds,” Gavigan said.
The court and police department go hand in hand, so it doesn’t make sense to have one without the other, Gavigan said.
Meyer said he will think about putting the issue on a future agenda for discussion. The town has until Sept. 24 to submit referendum questions to the county for the November election.