Town of Ellicott Police Chief William L. Ohnmeiss Jr. feels slighted by the 2013 budget recently passed by the Ellicott Town Board.
Board members have commented on how difficult the 2013 budget has proven to be, citing the transfer for workers compensation benefits to the town level as a particularly onerous item when passing a steady plan.
And though the tax rates of residents who live in Falconer, Celoron and the town outside these villages have risen from $3.81 to $4.25 per $1,000 assessed property value, $3.81 to $4.25, and $3.93 to $4.78, respectively, Ohnmeiss has voiced his disapproval of the amount of funding appropriated for police equipment.
In a letter submitted to the town board on Nov. 5, Ohnmeiss had this to say:
"In nine years I have only raised the police budget where I absolutely had to, to maintain a safe level of service and safety. I am very proud to have been able to 'hold the line.' I submitted the 2013 budget with no increases for the 10th year in the (police general funds). In the (equipment fund) I requested a very much needed $111,000."
"This account replaces worn-out, hazardous equipment and for 2013 needs to cover the mandatory Federal Government's mandate for the FCC narrow banding of our radio frequencies no later than Jan. 1, 2013," continued Ohnmeiss in the letter. "The board, without regard to my advice, reduced this account by 60 percent to $44,000, which, is to say mildly, a reckless action. This will not even come close to replacing hazardous equipment and meeting the Federal Government's mandate. This action forces me to do one of two things: replace a desperately needed vehicle or comply with the Federal Government mandate. Either way, the ultimate liability for this will fall back on the town board. I am at this time advising the board to use extreme caution and consideration, because this action will jeopardize citizens, patrol offices and possibly result in extreme penalties by the FCC.
"The board, without regard to my advice, reduced this account by 60 percent to $44,000, which, is to say mildly, a reckless action."
Chief William Ohnmeiss
Ellicott Police Department
"In closing, I would urge the board to make the only responsible decision, and that is to restore those funds as to deliver the service that you took an oath to deliver and that the tax payer so deserves. By doing so, you are ensuring the safety of all involved."
Cecil Miller, town supervisor for Ellicott, acknowledged Ohnmeiss's grievance with the 2013 budget.
"His budget was decreased, and he was not happy, to say the least," said Miller. "We obviously had a tax increase and we did everything we could to keep that as low as possible. We went through every line and cut everything we could without impacting services, which includes the police budget."
In his letter, one of Ohnmeiss's principal grievances is that noncompliance with mandatory FCC regulations starting on Jan. 1 could result in extreme penalties. Miller said he acknowledges Ohnmeiss's concern, however the board has decided to approach it from a different direction.
"We had discussions with him during the budget meetings about buying the new radios," said Miller. "His proposal was to outfit every officer with a new radio. What we decided to do was outfit every officer on duty."
"The problem with only outfitting every officer on duty with a radio is that it leave the potential for an officer to be in the line of duty without a radio, which is extremely dangerous," said Ohnmeiss. "Say you've got an officer coming on for a shift and another officer coming off of a shift, but an emergency happens and the officer which is just starting needs to respond to it. Now you've got an officer in the field without any means of communication. That's something that simply cannot happen."
And though Ohnmeiss requested an amount of $111,000 for the line of the budget appropriated for equipment, the $44,000 received in 2013 is an increase of $12,000 from the $32,000 appropriated in 2012.
"That line is generally used to purchase cars," said Miller. "We try to buy three cars over a two year period so one year we would buy one car and the next year we would buy two. However, this year that line needs to also go toward radios. As chief, he could decide to not buy any cars this year and only buy radios. That decision is up to his own discretion."
The Town of Ellicott's full budget will appear on its website sometime in the next few days. It can be viewed at www.townofellicott.com.