Janesville60.3°

Possible vote could dissolve police department

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Stacy Vogel
April 16, 2008
— The Milton Town Board has debated the need for its own police department for several years.

In November, voters might get to add their input.


Residents voted 12-6 at the annual town meeting April 8 to hold a referendum to dissolve the town police department and court.


While the residents’ vote doesn’t obligate the board to put a referendum on the ballot, four town board members—Sue Gavigan, Marian Trescher, Michael Murphy and Chairman Bryan Meyer—said they would support holding a non-binding referendum.


Supervisor John Traynor could not be reached for comment.


“I don’t see any reason not to do it,” Meyer said. “It’s not likely that it would be costly to have a referendum on the ballot.”


The town board has been debating the police department since fall 2006, when a tight budget caused resident Sue Gavigan and Supervisor Gail Slepekis to question the need for the department.


Today, Gavigan sits on the town board. Slepekis lost her bid for re-election in this month’s election.


Gavigan says her research shows the town lost $8,000 on the police department and court system in 2007 and $77,000 since 2004.


That’s money that could have gone toward the Milton Joint Fire Department, which is in need of new equipment and more funding, Gavigan said.


“I really believe it’s money that could be put in such a better spot,” she said.


Martha Martin agrees. She attended last week’s meeting, and her husband, Ronald, made the motion to hold the referendum.


She can’t understand why the town needs a police department when it already pays taxes to the Rock County Sheriff’s Department, she said.


“It’s such a duplication of services,” she said.


Milton is one of just four towns in the county—the others are Beloit, Fulton and Turtle—to staff its own police department.


But the police department provides services not offered by the sheriff’s department, such as enforcing town ordinances and working with residents on violations before they reach the court, Meyer said.


Still, Meyer said he’s not opposed to letting the residents have their say, as long as they have all the facts.


He hopes to appoint a citizens committee to study what the town would gain and lose by dissolving the police department and court, he said.


Trescher, who was elected this month, voted against holding the referendum at last week’s meeting but now says she would support a referendum.


“There’s lots of advantages to having a police department, and it just came about as kind of a surprise to me that they were asking for a referendum,” she said in explanation of her vote.


“I’m willing to go along with whatever the people’s wishes are.”



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