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updated: 11/13/2012 7:18 PM

Winfield advisory vote doesn't end police debate

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Winfield residents last week overwhelmingly supported an advisory ballot question calling on the village to keep its police department.

But a day after the vote, some Winfield officials already were meeting with the DuPage County sheriff's office to discuss a proposal to have the sheriff take over police protection in the village.

Sheriff's police Col. Peter Sterenberg confirmed Tuesday that he met last week with two Winfield trustees -- Tim Allen and Jay Olson -- and Village Manager Curt Barrett. The sheriff's office is "open to listening" to Winfield's plan, Sterenberg said, and another meeting is scheduled next month.

Allen said the goal is for the sheriff's office and village to determine whether the outsourcing idea is worth pursuing.

"If we can get to that point, then we'll send (a proposed agreement) to the county," said Allen, adding that county board members must sign off on any deal. "But if we can't agree, then we won't send anything to the county."

Trustees receptive to the outsourcing idea have said it's being considered because Winfield needs money to fix its deteriorating streets.

The Nov. 7 meeting, however, was just one day after 87 percent of voters approved the nonbinding question urging Winfield to keep its own police department.

Allen said the problem is that Winfield voters also rejected a property tax hike that would have generated $850,000 to $900,000 a year, which the village planned to use to fix roads and bolster its underfunded police pension fund.

Voters also opposed a plan to allow video gambling to raise revenue. They ordered the town to reinstate a ban on video gambling that the village board repealed in March.

"I appreciate the fact that they have given us guidance in the (police) referendum," Allen said. "But there are bills that have to be paid. If we can't raise taxes, something has to give."

Estimates show Winfield would save money if it contracted with the sheriff's office. Exactly how much isn't yet known.

Another unknown is whether county board members are even receptive to the idea.

Before it reaches the county board level, Chairman Dan Cronin said he hopes village leaders "take note" of the election results about saving the Winfield Police Department.

"My guess is they will respect the viewpoint of the people in that town," he said, "and then they'll go back to the drawing board and figure out how to provide their own police protection."

If Winfield officials push forward with the outsourcing plan anyway, Cronin said, "I think it's highly unlikely that the county board would support this concept."

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