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updated: 8/17/2012 11:05 AM

Winfield considering ways to keep police

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As Winfield trustees consider a controversial plan to disband the village's police force to pay for road repairs, several alternatives geared at keeping the department intact are being proposed.

The options include downsizing the Winfield Police Department, asking voters to approve a property tax increase and allowing commercial development along Roosevelt Road.

In the meantime, some trustees are hoping to start a dialogue with DuPage County officials to determine if it's feasible even to hire the sheriff's office to provide police protection to the town.

Trustees decided to have the village attorney review a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the county before sending it to the county board.

"We can't make any decision (on outsourcing) until we have the hard numbers and information back from the county," Trustee James Hughes said.

Estimates show Winfield would save money if it contracted with the sheriff's office. Exactly how much hasn't been finalized. County board members also haven't weighed in yet and could decide that the idea isn't worth pursuing.

"Either they are going to get us real numbers," Trustee Tim Allen said, "or they are going to say, 'We're just not interested.'"

Trustees receptive to the outsourcing idea say it's being considered because Winfield needs money to fix streets.

One way the village could raise cash is by increasing property taxes.

So the board voted 4-2 to overturn a veto by Village President Deborah Birutis and placed a question on the November ballot that will ask voters to approve a doubling of the property tax rate homeowners pay to the village.

If the tax increase is approved, it would give the village between $850,000 and $900,000 a year for road repairs and the police pension fund.

"I really think we need to see what's on the minds of our citizens," Hughes said. "Let's find out if the residents want little or no change to the services with a tax increase."

The question won't be the only one on the ballot related to the police department.

Concerned about the outsourcing idea, a group of residents succeeded in getting an advisory question on the ballot that asks if the village should retain its own police force.

But Allen says the advisory question is meaningless. "It's nonbinding," he said, "and it's not a solution."

One option that wouldn't require higher taxes is downsizing the police department.

Winfield police Sgt. Joseph Grimaldi submitted a proposal that reduces the size of the force from 17 sworn staff members to 13. To achieve that number, voluntary buyouts would be offered to four senior staff members who are at or near retirement age.

Preliminary estimates show the reorganization would save the village about $519,000 a year. Other ways to reduce costs also could be explored.

The proposal was reviewed by Hughes and police union representatives before being publicly presented during Thursday's meeting. Hughes said he believes the plan could preserve the police department. "I am trying to get options on the table," he said.

Meanwhile, land owners are asking Winfield to rezone their properties along Roosevelt Road from residential to commercial. They say a stretch of commercial properties would entice developers and eventually increase the village's revenue base.

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