FAIRLAND — Several Fairland residents are standing up for their own protection by posting signs throughout the rural community in support of the town’s police department.
About 60 residents attended a public meeting Thursday in opposition of the proposed elimination of the Fairland Police Department.
Although no decision has been made by city council members to do away with the police force, there has been discussion about the lack of funding for the department.
According to Karen Lunsford, Fairland city clerk, the police department has an annual budget of $111,500. Approximately $35,000 is funded for maintenance. The remaining $76,500 is paid to two full-time officers and a part-time officer.
Residents voiced their concern Thursday that the town would not be adequately protected without a full-time police force.
“The ideal situation is for each town to have its own police force if at all possible,” said Ottawa County Undersheriff Bob Ernst.
With 471 square miles to cover and more than 15,000 households to protect, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have the manpower or the budget to keep deputies in each community, according to Ernst.
Fairland Police Chief Wes Sly said his office responds to between 60 and 80 calls per month.
Between 911 calls, county assist calls, medical assist calls and average daily calls, Fairland’s three officers stay busy most days, according to Sly.
"There are days you can’t find enough time to put them all in," Sly said. "And then some days we don’t get a single call."
Sly said the absence of a police department would not be beneficial to the community.
"We’re right here if there is a problem," Sly said. "How long would it take to get a deputy to Fairland?"
This summer, the City of Picher entered into an interlocal agreement for law enforcement services with the sheriff’s office.
Earlier this month, Picher City Council members notified the sheriff’s office that they would no longer use their services.
"We were not getting the revenue from municipal citations that we did when we had our own police force," said Picher City Clerk Carolyn Elmore.
Picher council members said they were not dissatisfied by the quality of law enforcement, but the absence of a full-time officer was definitely noticed.
The town will be discussing the possibility of re-establishing a police department this month.
Fairland city officials are expected to discuss the fate of their police department next Thursday during the monthly council meeting.