MADISON TOWNSHIP - - Maintaining a force of 17 full-time police officers is the mission for Madison Township Chief Gerald Jenkins. Without the passage of a May levy, the department risks losing four full-time officers, the chief said Tuesday night.

"We are never going to have the need for less police officers," Jenkins said at this week's township trustee meeting when asked to explain the 1.9-mill permanent levy. The levy replaces a 1.9-mill 2-year levy originally passed in 1987. According to the Lake County Auditor's Office, taxpayers' valuation per $100,000 will be $58.18.

"I don't think there is anyone in this room who is operating on a paycheck from 1987 and that's what we are doing," the chief said.

Resident Joe Vulcan questioned the May levy, which is a special election with a substantial cost, rather than waiting until November. Vulcan's said the May levy's cost is not viable.

Trustee Pete Wayman confirmed an estimated $20,000 of the township's general fund would pay for the special vote.

"We know this is really a large amount of money, but looking into the future, it really is a necessity," Wayman said.

The chief also realizes this is costly and was shocked at the cost, which he said doubled.

"The problem is: If we don't do it now and wait until November and it fails, then we're talking layoffs - - serious layoffs," Jenkins said, adding the department has just enough money to get through this year, but will be seriously strapped next year.

"If it fails in November we lose 16 percent of our budget. I don't think we can afford not to do it (in May)...," Jenkins said. "We're not taking a gamble. This is something we need to do, or else we will be gambling with the safety and security of this township."

Resident Dave Jacobson questioned why the 1987 2-year levy was being replaced with a permanent levy.

Jenkins said renewal levies are better for short-term needs such as replacing equipment, while permanent levies are ideal for maintaining personnel.

He said in 2001 the department had 21 full-time officers, comparing that to the current 17.

"This community has grown significantly in the last six years," the chief said, adding that the department receives constant complaints from residents who do not see enough officers patrolling their roads. This, he said, is a symptom of a tight budget.

"We need this money. We need it desperately," Jenkins said. "As a police department, we cannot tread water. Because if we do, we will drown."

Star Beacon Print Edition: 1/25/2007

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