Study: Winfield could save money using sheriff's police

Daily Herald: On Guard

  • Deborah Birutis

    Deborah Birutis

 
 
Updated 4/7/2011 4:44 PM

Winfield officials have received an analysis that concludes the village could save millions of dollars if it contracted with the DuPage County sheriff's office to provide police protection.

But Village President Deborah Birutis continues to insist that there's been no discussion of dismantling the Winfield Police Department.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The document, obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicates Winfield could save roughly $5.5 million over a three-year period if four sheriff's deputies and two detectives were used to patrol the community and investigate crimes.

Sheriff's office representatives said they did the analysis last month at Winfield's request. A final report was given to village officials earlier this month.

"We are not advocating this," said Dan Bilodeau, a chief with the sheriff's office. "This is not something that we're pursuing. We're just responding to their requests."

E-mail records provided by the sheriff's office show Birutis met with Sheriff John Zaruba. In a Nov. 6 message to Zaruba, Birutis requested information about "programs that the village of Winfield could consider as a joint venture with the county."

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For example, estimates show that Winfield could save up to $179,000 a year if it dropped DuComm and had the sheriff's office handle the village's 911 calls and emergency dispatching.

Birutis said she and Zaruba never discussed disbanding the Winfield Police Department and having the sheriff's office take over policing the village. "We had a preliminary meeting with a preliminary discussion on where we can save money with programs," she said.

When Winfield's 13 patrol officers learned of the meeting between Birutis and Zaruba, they started worrying their jobs were in jeopardy, union officials said.

Those fears were further fueled when it was discovered that the sheriff's office reviewed several scenarios for providing police protection in Winfield.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Even though Winfield officials say they never asked for the analysis, Bilodeau said, "We wouldn't have just added that in."

Earlier this month, Winfield officials were presented with the proposal for the four deputies and two detectives. If approved, the plan would cost Winfield about $1 million but save the village about $2.1 million the first year.

On Tuesday, village officials questioned the viability of that plan.

"I don't think that proposal addresses the coverage that we have an expectation for," Village Manager Curt Barrett said.

Birutis said she only briefly saw the proposal before assigning Police Chief Frank Bellisario to review it. She said it will be up to Bellisario to decide if the information should be presented next month to the village's finance committee as part of the budget process.

Bellisario did not return several phone calls over several days.

In the meantime, Barrett said police union representatives have been asked to suggest cost-saving measures the village could pursue.

Winfield officials are taking a close look at the overall budget, in part because the village must raise $3.3 million to resurface its most deteriorated streets. The village had about $100,000 for road repairs this year, officials said.

"I don't think that our residents would want a disbanding of our police department," Birutis said. "But it does not remove the fact that we need to consider all options."