Onaway officials pleased with patrols so far

ONAWAY – Onaway city commissioners are satisfied so far with an arrangement with the Presque Isle County Sheriff Department to provide extra patrol in the city.

Sheriff Robert Paschke told commissioners at their meeting Monday the statistics of the first 10 months of an agreement between the city and department. From July 1, 2013, through April 30, deputies handled 472 complaints and made 187 traffic stops. They provided an average of 75 hours of night patrols per month.

Mayor Gary Wregglesworth said he’s heard comments from residents on the deputies’ presence in town.

“They’re having a lot of presence there,” he said. “(Paschke) is pleased with the arrangement and council’s pleased with the arrangement. I’m hearing from citizens that they’re seeing a lot of law enforcement around, so it’s working very well.”

Paschke said he also believes the arrangement is working well, and the council and City Manager Joe Hefele have been good to work with. His deputies have been doing well in making sure to go through town when traveling through that part of the county.

“It’s working. I think it’s been a good working agreement between both parties,” he said.

Citing an ongoing budget deficit, city commissioners opted in 2013 not to renew Onaway Police Chief Jim Gibson’s contract. They later approved an agreement between the city and sheriff’s department where, for $25,000 per year, deputies will provide a minimum of 16 hours per week of patrol, on average, in the city.

It was a decision that caused some controversy, leading to recall efforts against all four commissioners and the mayor. One recall petition was filed by former Onaway Police Chief Jim Gibson, on which he stated Commissioners Bernie Schmeltzer and Ron Horrocks failed to consider all options to keep the city’s police department. The language came in part from petitions filed by Judy Shaloy to recall Wregglesworth and commissioners Jessie Horrocks and Chuck Abshagen.

Schmeltzer and Ron Horrocks survived the recall election in May, as did Wregglesworth and Abshagen in November 2013. However, Jessie Horrocks was unseated by Roger Marsh for less than two months in November. She was elected to another term on the same ballot, and resumed as commissioner in January.

The agreement automatically renews every year unless the city or department back out or indicate the desire to renegotiate the terms, Hefele said. At this point, it appears both the city and Sheriff’s department have no intention of doing either.

Commissioners also approved selling three firearms formerly used by the Onaway Police Department to sheriff’s deputies for $1,125, with the money going to the city’s general fund, Hefele said. They also voted to turn over any guns kept at the police department to the Michigan State Police firearms division to refurbish them for law enforcement use or destroy them. There are a number of guns kept in storage for quite some time, either for safekeeping or because they were formerly evidence.

In other business:

* commissioners awarded a bid to crush, shape and repave North Elm Street between Spruce and Cedar streets and North Veterans Drive from State to Cedar streets to Goodrich Trucking and Asphalt for $59,900, Hefele said. He expects to have a schedule for the road work soon, and will notify affected residents once he does.

The bid is significantly lower than the $80,000 the city had budgeted, so the city will use the additional money to repave several spots where city roads have been patched as a result of water line repairs, Hefele said.

* commissioners approved a quit-claim deed on a strip of wastewater treatment plant property claimed both by the city and Iron One, which purchased the former Art Van Furniture, Hefele said.

* Onaway will now pay its election workers as city employees, covering them under its worker’s compensation and liability policies, Hefele said. The change will result in what he called a minor added expense to the city for the workers’ payroll taxes.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.