The ongoing debate about the future of Winfield's police force hasn't been quelled by the release of a consultant's report highlighting ways the small town could provide police protection and save money.
In fact, trustees say they expect the debate to intensify since the consultant didn't takes sides on whether the Winfield Police Department should remain intact or be disbanded.
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REM Management Services Inc. mentioned both options in the report's summary of recommendations.
If the village wants to maintain the same "quality of service," REM recommends that trustees continue to fund Winfield's 19-member police department. The consultant noted that there are ways to reduce the cost of maintaining the force.
If the police services decision is "based on financial issues," REM said, the village board should consider contracting the DuPage County sheriff's office to provide police protection.
"The sheriff's personnel will provide excellent services to the village," the consultant wrote, "but it will not be the same type of service currently provided by Winfield officers."
Trustees' reactions to the report reflect the schism among village board members.
The 63-page report makes "a very compelling case" for the village to consider outsourcing police services, according to Trustee Jay Olson. He said the idea would help Winfield raise money for road repairs and other needs.
"It gives us the options we need to manage our village, address a revenue deficiency, and take care of core services," Olson said.
But Trustee Erik Spande says that the vast majority of residents who have contacted him "value and want the quality of service" provided by the village's police force.
"While the county sheriff has a fine department, the bottom line is that county deputies will not be the same as sworn Winfield officers," Spande said.
Trustee Tim Allen said he doesn't buy that argument. He said there's nothing in REM's report to change his opinion that outsourcing is the right thing to do.
"It really does come down to money," Allen said. "We're going to get the same level of services, and the quality is going to be equivalent."
For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the village budgeted about $2.5 million for the police department. That figure includes a $217,000 contribution to the police pension fund.
If Winfield approves an intergovernmental agreement with the sheriff's office, it's unknown what the total impact would be on the village's budget.
"Until the village negotiates its contract for police services with the county, some budget numbers will remain undetermined," REM wrote.
Whatever the final numbers end up being, Trustee Tony Reyes said the goal would be to have deputies constantly patrolling Winfield's streets.
"There's been a lot of hoopla about response times and so on," Reyes said. "But the intent has always been -- if we went this route -- to have deputy sheriffs assigned to Winfield only. That would be their job."
REM said the number of sheriff's deputies assigned to each shift in Winfield should be similar to what the village already has on staff. Right now, Winfield assigns three or four "responding officers" 62 percent of the time, according to the report.
Therefore, the consultant is recommending that 10 sheriff's deputies be assigned to Winfield to maintain existing levels of service.
If 10 deputies are assigned to Winfield, preliminary estimates show that it would cost the village $1.98 million, resulting in a savings of $520,000 the first year. The village's projected savings over a five-year period would be $4.57 million, according to the consultant.
Trustee Jim Hughes says the outsourcing idea should be considered because it's "the responsible thing" to do because of the projected long-term savings for the village.
While sheriff's deputies would do most of the same duties as existing Winfield officers, the village would have to pay for extra services, including red-light camera review, local ordinance violations and watering violations.
Depending on how many services it would want, Hughes said, Winfield could end up paying the sheriff's office up to $200,000 more yearly.
Even with the added cost, Hughes said, contracting with the sheriff's office would save a lot of money. "It's hard to not consider that (outsourcing) very seriously," he said.
However, trustees are facing public pressure to keep the village police department, as evidenced by hundreds of yard signs throughout town. In November, voters will weigh in on an advisory ballot question that asks if Winfield should keep its own police force.
Before trustees make a final decision, the village is going to host a series of informational town hall meetings. REM will present its findings at the first meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the CDH Pavilion Auditorium in Winfield.
"The debate won't rest until a decision is made," Reyes said. "And the people are going to debate both sides until the bitter end."