During the Lake Lotawana Board of Alderman work session held Tuesday, February 7, approximately 150 people from the community attended to voice their questions and concerns regarding the proposal to turn policing services over to the Blue Springs Police Department. The meeting was held at Lake Lotawana Community United Methodist Church.
What may not have been expected was how quickly the talk went from the City of Blue Springs to the Jackson County Sheriff’s department.
Questions were raised as to why a proposal given to the City of Lake Lotawana from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was denied. Lake Lotawana wanted to keep control of the court systems and penalties when it comes to tickets and infractions of the law that take place within the city limits. In the Jackson County proposal, all judicial matters would fall under the county and not the city, therefore eliminating the need for a judicial system in the City of Lake Lotawana.
This proposal was written based off the parameters that where given to them based on the City of Lake Lotawana wanting to cut costs and save money by contracting out their policing services. In their proposal, Jackson County decided to take it a step further by attempting to help by proposing that all judicial matters concerning all legal issues would be resolved at the county courthouse. This was an attempt to help further reduce city costs that would have eliminated the court system in Lake Lotawana.
“We wrote our proposal based on the guidelines provided to us from Lake Lotawana,” Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said. “We would have been open to any suggestions they might have had.” He went on to say, “I am not sure how much they receive in court fees and I am not sure how much it costs to run their courts.”
Another reason why the city may have passed on the Jackson County proposal was that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office would not be enforcing polices and laws based on what is currently being enforced within the city limits. Officers would abide by the county laws and policies as they are written in the county.
Jackson County would work with Lake Lotawana to enforce their laws and policies as written by the city. “Our laws almost mirror each other and tweaking would have been done if asked,” Sheriff Mike Sharp said.
Mayor Miles questioned whether Jackson County was unable to provide 24/7 coverage to the city of Lake Lotawana and its residents. Under the proposal that was written by Jackson County, they would have added four new deputy slots which would have allowed them to provide such coverage. Sheriff Mike Sharp commented on this: “Not true. We never told Lake Lotawana we couldn’t provide 24/7 coverage to the city.”
“All said and done, I think that the city of Blue Springs will do a great job if Lake Lotawana decides to go with them. Regardless, Jackson County Sheriff department will always be available for the citizens of Lake Lotawana. It’s Lake Lotawana’s decision to make.”
"When considering other agencies, the City thought through many factors. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Blue Spring Police Department made our short list when everything was taken into consideration," Mayor Miles said. "As a peer elected official, I have always appreciated the way Sheriff Sharp balances local needs with the greater needs of Jackson County."
The last point of contention was that the Jackson County proposal was asking for payments in lump sums over a five-year contract. In the first year, the city of Lake Lotawana would be required to make a partial payment at the start of the contract and six months later would have to pay the rest. Then on a yearly basis, the city would have to pay in full for that years’ services at the beginning of the year. Under the Blue Springs proposal, they are only wanting a three-year contract and would allow all current policies and laws to be enforced how they are currently written. Also, all court appearances and fines would be paid to the city of Lake Lotawana and not to Blue Springs. Payments for services would be paid on a monthly basis to the City of Blue Springs.
It was discussed that the biggest advantage for the City of Lake Lotawana is that they will be able to keep the judiciary system in the city and be able to retain all fees that would be assessed from infractions that take place within the city limits. Having the court system would also allow them to hold any patron that is within those city limits to be held to the cities laws and policies if a criminal offense takes place in Lake Lotawana.
Jackson County has provided services to other cities around the area. In the past they have provided the cities of Oak Grove and Greenwood on a temporary basis until they were able to get back in a position to police themselves again.
Lake Lotawana residents questioned why the city would go with the more expensive proposal. The question isn’t whether or not the county is qualified, or flexible to the laws, policies or demands of Lake Lotawana. What is the reason for Lake Lotawana wanting to move forward with Blue Springs and where there any other cities contacted for a proposal? Why not accept the proposal from Jackson County as they already pay for their services and they patrol the streets now, they wondered.
The open platform allowed the residents of Lake Lotawana to ask these questions and voice concerns to the Board of Aldermen. Matt Holloway presented a signed petition to the Board of Aldermen that had over 400 signatures from current residents. The signed petition was delivered in an attempt to prevent the merger of Blue Springs covering the City of Lake Lotawana. Another reported 150 signatures are being delivered to the city at a later date.
When Mayor Miles was asked how many signatures where needed to prevent the vote of this proposal, Miles stated, “We will accept them.” He did not give a definitive answer.
Thomas Strannigan, C Block, said: “We are already paying for their (Jackson County) services. Why not just continue working with them?” Strannigan later called for the Board of Aldermen to postpone the proposal until after April 4, 2017 election where three aldermen positions and the mayor’s seat are up for vote. Mayor Miles then stated, “If we thought this was political in nature at all, why wouldn’t we have just waited to announce this until after April? There is nothing political driving these folks here.”
The mayor reminded The Tribune that there will be two meetings held before a measure is passed. Unlike some municipalities, the City of Lake Lotawana will not pass an ordinance in a single meeting. If there is a vote at the February 21 meeting, another meeting would take place before it is adopted by the city.
The next Board of Aldermen meeting will be held Tuesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. location to be determined. The public is encouraged to attend as more conversation about police services will be discussed.