CAMDEN — Camden Village Council debated budgetary issues, billing policies, and payment for village police officers at its bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 15.
After passing a resolution to hire a new part-time police officer at a rate of $13 an hour, councilman Kelly Doran expressed anger at the village’s inability to better compensate its police.
“$13 an hour for a police officer outrages me,” Doran said. “We need to find a way to attract new officers, and keep the people we have.”
Council member Debbie Hickman agreed, saying the village had recently lost a good officer who was offered a job in a nearby city. Hickman said there was no way council could compete with salaries being offered by local hospitals and other private employers.
Funding the police is the single biggest expense on the village’s budget, according to Doran, who expressed a desire to make the current police department operating levy permanent.
Council approved a first reading of a resolution outlining the amount of money the village is authorized to bring in through its various levies. The resolution requires three readings before being certified by the county auditor.
Though he’d earlier agreed with council members’ assertions that village police officers should receive higher pay, councilman Ernest Crabtree voted against the resolution, saying there was no reason to raise tax rates in the village.
“We’re already getting enough money,” Crabtree said. “In fact there needs to be a tax reduction.”
According to Doran and village fiscal officer Becky Wilson, however, the resolution in question doesn’t specify any increase, but is merely a formality council must go through each year in order to continue being able to collect funds from already existing levies.
Doran and Crabtree also disagreed on a proposal to bill the owners of vacant properties in the village for water, sewer and trash service. A committee comprised of Doran and other council members had decided not to move forward with the plan.
“Right now, people are still licking their wounds from the income tax, and getting hit with sidewalk repairs,” Doran said. “This could be perceived as gouging our residents. People are going to look at it as just one more thing.”
Crabtree saw things differently, however.
“I feel like we’re getting gouged already,” Crabtree said. “Why not spread the cost out?”
Debbie Mason, website specialist for Trenton-based consulting firm Tech Force Onsite LLC, spoke to council about ongoing upgrades to the village’s municipal website.
During council’s Aug. 1, meeting, Mason said the existing site was “old and very cumbersome,” and advocated developing a site, located at a new web domain, that would enable the village to post agendas and minutes for the council’s meetings, information about municipal codes and ordinances, demographic information, and photographs and contact information for village staff, as well as providing functionality that would allow residents to pay certain bills online.
The new site, located at camdenohio.org, is now well under way, according to Mason, who told council members most of the original site’s content has already been moved over to the new page.
“We’re ready to move forward,” Mason said. “From now on it’s going to be me creating content that wasn’t already on there, including clerk of courts information and how to pay.”
Finally, Clerk of Courts Nancy Melton addressed council about efforts to collect payment for unpaid citations. Melton suggesting turning over delinquent accounts to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Department of Collections.
“They go after everything, and from what I hear it’s not too nice and it does put some fear in people,” Melton said.
Council also discussed issuing arrest warrants for individuals with unpaid citations. While the warrants would not be actively enforced, delinquent residents could still be arrested if they happen to be pulled over for an unrelated traffic violation.
“It could be a week, it could be a year, it could be five years,” Crabtree said.
“It’s better than nothing,” Doran agreed.
Village Council meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Camden Town Hall.