County police coverage coming to Cerro Gordo

Law enforcement items took center stage at the Piatt County board meeting May 9, as the board approved a contract between the sheriff's department and the Village of Cerro Gordo for police coverage.

Also approved unanimously was an effort that will likely bring a county school resource officer on board.

The four-year contract for Cerro Gordo coverage was also approved by the village in a special meeting Monday night, but due to hiring and training requirements it may not officially go into effect for about six months.

Cerro Gordo has been considering the option since the resignation of long-time police chief Pat Carter in January, saying it has been difficult to find and keep officers for the town.

“We found it more and more difficult to hire part-timers, even. We paid to train two part-timers and they left us as soon as they were trained – which I understand – but it becomes frustrating for us. We've talked to other towns trying to hire chiefs and decided this was going to be the way to go,” said Cerro Gordo Village President Brad Williams.

The cost for the village will be about $81,412 annually, a $30,000 per year savings for Cerro Gordo, according to Williams, and will include 40 hours of coverage per week.

The contract will not begin until the county hires and trains a new deputy, which could take several months, according to Piatt County Sheriff David Hunt.

“We have to go through the process of putting out for applications and interviewing, because we're not filling it with our own (current) staff,” said Hunt, adding that current deputies are helping fill the void left by Carter's resignation, along with two part-time Village of Cerro Gordo police officers.

“To fulfill that position of the contract, we'll be putting out applications. We're looking at probably a good six months to get somebody,” added Hunt, noting there are certain training requirements in becoming a deputy.

The contract covers deputy pay, equipment, and a patrol car that will be marked as both a Piatt County Sheriff and Village of Cerro Gordo vehicle.

The village would be responsible for overtime pay.

Williams feels the contract that the contract is supported by the majority of the town’s residents.

“The majority of the citizens have expressed to me they are happy with the idea, they're happy with the county services,” he said. “I think it will work out great.”

Hunt also feels it will be a positive move for all concerned.

“We believe this will be a good thing for Piatt County as a whole,” he added.

SRO officer
The idea of a school resource officer was also endorsed by the board, which approved a two-year contract that would have four county school districts covering 80 percent of the cost. The Monticello, Cerro Gordo, DeLand-Weldon and Bement school boards will likely consider the contract at their meetings over the next two months.

Since Monticello's district has more buildings, it will be responsible for 40 percent of the $67,153 annual cost, with the other school districts picking up 20 percent apiece.

“I think it's an excellent idea and something that's probably been needed for a long time. This is kind of a pilot program to see how one officer is going to work out – maybe increasing that in years to come,” said County Board Chairman Al Manint.

Hunt said he used Champaign County as an template when writing up the agreement.

“We basically mirrored the contract that Champaign County has with St. Joseph. We feel it is a good contract as well,” he commented.


 


 

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