by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor
While discussions between officials from the city of Onaway and Presque Isle County continue, the city moves on without an on duty police officer.
At the last Onaway City Commission meeting April 22, no action was taken to extend the employment of Onaway Police Department chief Jim Gibson.
A motion was made to extend employment into May, as negotiations continue, but was not supported by the board. Gibson’s employment with the city ended Tuesday.
In the meantime, the now former chief is unemployed for the first time since he got out of high school. He still had a concern. “Number one is the safety,” said Gibson.
City officials will be relying on the Presque Isle County Sheriff’s Department for its police services. “The same service it provides throughout the rest of the county,” said Onaway city manager Joe Hefele.
According to Presque Isle County sheriff Bob Paschke, deputies will respond to complaints from citizens the same as they respond in the rest to the complaints of the citizens of the county.
“Complaints will be prioritized and assigned as they come in,” said Paschke in a press release. The sheriff also said all complaints will go through Presque Isle central dispatch and assigned to the deputy or deputies on duty.
“In case of emergencies, everything possible will be done to ensure the quickest response,” said Paschke. “People need to understand that the sheriff’s office has eight deputies working the road, with two deputies working in the schools.”
Hefele was contacted Thursday morning at city hall and reiterated that the decision was one of fiscal responsibility.
“We are forced to live within the budget that we have,” said Hefele. “We are forced to live within the new financial reality that we have, that has been caused by massively decreased property values and property taxes, and massively reduced revenue sharing from the state.”
He added that they are using other funds to plug the general fund shortfalls. “It has forced the city into some very tough decisions,” said Hefele.
Gibson believes, “we are in the condition we are in because of the decisions they (city commission) made.”
“We have faith that the sheriff’s department will provide adequate law enforcement in Onaway,” said Hefele. “That said, we are still working with the sheriff’s department on an agreement that would provide patrol, above and beyond, what might otherwise be expected.”
Paschke said his office does not have an over abundance of deputies to patrol the county and answer complaints.
“We will do the best that we can to answer complaints in the city of Onaway, but please be patient, we will get to them as soon as possible,” said Paschke.
Hefele met with the sheriff and undersheriff Joe Brewbaker Wednesday to discuss some form of partnership between the city and sheriff’s department.
“I will be bringing the city commission up to speed on that at Monday’s meeting,” said Hefele.