A divided Milford Town Council drove home a point Monday night: They don’t like their marshal living outside of town.
After weeks of discussion and feedback from area residents, the three council members took up the issue midway through their regular monthly meeting. Marshal Rich Miotto opened the discussion.
In addition to his previous arguments in favor of a take-home car policy, which included improved response time and the wide acceptance of the practice, Miotto brought up the role that it could play in stemming the turnover of department employees.
Members of the council have acknowledged that the town acts as a feeder system for larger law enforcement agencies. With some frequency, officers are hired by the town of Milford – which pays for their training and uniforms, only to see them transfer to nearby agencies after a short time.
“It’s hard for us to compete with what we have to offer. The last two (officers) we lost were because of, number one: take-home cars, and number two: pensions,” Miotto said.
The Milford Police Department isn’t the small department that it was 30 or 40 years ago, he pointed out. The lack of these common benefits and others, such as longevity pay, are hampering the department’s ability to keep good people, he added.
Council member Bob Cockburn agreed that the benefit would serve to attract officers and a marshal in the future.
“I’m looking down the road. I know that you won’t be with us forever … and all of our competitors do this. I think we need to consider it,” he said.
Council member Dan Cochran’s first concern was financial. Cuts in state funding are trickling down to the county and will trickle down further to towns, he said. Convinced that those cuts will continue, he opposed getting Milford into any situation that could wind up costing the town more money.
“Sooner or later this issue is going to go into (needing) three cars. It just seems like costs continue to grow and grow,” he said. “That’s where I stand.”
Returning to the issue of take-home cars as a benefit of employment, Miotto responded by pointing out that he and town clerk Joellen Free had recently discovered that, contrary to what had been thought, the town’s insurance would not cover damages to an officer’s personal vehicle if it was in an accident while responding to a call to come in to work.
“I do not know how to get around it. We’re on call 24/7. If something comes up and I respond, if something happens to my vehicle, who takes care of that and makes sure it’s taken care of right?”
“It’s no different than if anyone else in a different department was in an accident coming to or from work, council president Doug Ruch responded. “I question, in an emergency situation, what percentage of that situation can you take care of by not coming in from that distance,” he asked, referring to the fact that Miotto’s residence is located in Warsaw.
Following further discussion, Ruch moved to not allow the marshal nor Milford deputies to have take-home cars. Before the question was called, however, Cockburn noted that deputy Derek Kreider sometimes parks a Milford squad car outside of his home in Milford. Ruch nodded in agreement that this arrangement was “to the benefit of the town,” as Cockburn put it.
Ruch amended the motion to not allow take-home police cars for employees who live outside of the city limits of Milford, adding that the ordinance would take effect at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. The motion passed 2-1.