Ashley Andyshak Hayes
(6/16) The Frederick County sheriff said Emmitsburg will not suffer a cut in services even though town commissioners voted last week to terminate the contract with one community deputy. But one business owner is among those who aren't so sure.
Commissioners voted June 6 to reduce the number of community deputies who patrol the town from three to two to save about $60,000 in the fiscal 2012 budget. Because the contract requires a six-month termination notice, the town will retain the three deputies through November.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said the third deputy would be reassigned within the department. He was not sure which deputy would be affected.
"I understand why they made the decision, it was strictly budgetary," Jenkins said. "I know they were absolutely satisfied with the service they were getting."
Jenkins said the sheriff's office will still respond to calls from Emmitsburg as it does in all other areas of the county.
Even so, Dennis Smith, manager of Paul's Pit Stop on South Seton Avenue, said he was concerned about the cut.
"I think we should add to the patrols," he said. "I think we're very sparsely covered up here as it is."
Last year, vandals broke into Paul's Pit Stop, causing $1,000 in damage and taking about $400 in merchandise, Smith said. Several other Emmitsburg businesses reported break-ins earlier this year. Smith attributes the crimes to unsupervised teens.
"The kids sit and watch when the deputies leave town, and they run the streets all hours of the night, doing basically whatever they want to do," he said. "This town's being overrun by the little teenagers."
Commissioners President Chris Staiger said the deputy cut was part of a solution to a problem that stemmed from an increase in spending between 2004 and 2008. During those years, the town saw an increase in revenue, and "engaged in an orgy of spending," he said, that included joining the state pension plan, hiring a town planner and
contracting for the third deputy.
Staiger said a reduction in revenue in the past several years has forced the town to make significant budget cuts -- including the deputy reduction. To balance the budget otherwise, he said the town would have to dip into its savings or raise taxes by about 14 percent.
"I have received, and honestly expected, some vocal, negative reaction from town residents," Staiger said in an email.
"But this reduction was supported unanimously by all of the town's elected officials, who are all residents and taxpayers and who have homes and children throughout the community and are affected just as anyone else by the decision."
Commissioner Pat Joy, who was absent from the meeting where the vote was taken, has advocated reducing the number of community deputies to save money. Joy said last week that he does not believe the decision will put the town at risk.
"This is an important step with us taking control of our budget, and I do not think it will jeopardize public safety in any way," he said.
Middletown and Myersville also have community deputy contracts with the sheriff's office. Jenkins said neither of those municipalities has chosen to change the contracts for the coming year.
However, because of the tight budget situations many towns are facing, Jenkins said he hasn't ruled out the possibility.
"It wouldn't surprise me if there would be additional decisions like that," he said. "It's going to be a year-by-year decision."
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