AROMA PARK — Mounting expenses, coupled with rising state requirements, have led to a major shift in policing within Aroma Park.
The village’s police department will likely cease operations on Nov. 1 and turn over its law enforcement duties to the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department through an intergovernmental agreement.
At the village board meeting this week, trustees agreed by a 4-2 vote to disband the department, currently headed by Police Chief Todd Navratil.
The move would not impact the Aroma Park Fire District as it’s a separate taxing district and is not under the umbrella of the village board.
“This was a very hard decision,” Mayor Brian Stump said. “... We held off on this decision as long as we could. This wasn’t personal. Chief Navratil and his officers did their jobs very well.
“But I had to look at the long-term view. Everything I do I’m trying to look 10 years down the road.”
The view Stump said he saw is that the operation of a department with an approximate budget of $120,000 could not be sustained in a village of just over 660 residents.
Currently, the department is manned by a full-time chief and five part-time officers. The village department provides patrols between the hours of 2 and 10 p.m. on Monday through Friday, with part-time officers typically patrolling the village on the weekends.
The remainder of the hours is monitored either by the chief or by the sheriff’s department, as needs arise.
Come later this year, the 36-member patrol division of the sheriff’s department will take over law enforcement duties. The sheriff’s department — with an operating budget of $3.9 million — operates three, 11-officer patrol shifts daily.
It became simply a matter of dollars and cents. Stump said the village could have continued spending the $120,000 or contract with the sheriff’s department and spend some $75,000 to $85,000 annually.
The Kankakee County Board, which is the governing body for the sheriff’s department, must approve this intergovernmental agreement as well.
The contract states the county will charge a $55-per-hour rate for patrol.
This type of arrangement is not new to the sheriff’s department. It has existing contracts with Bonfield, Buckingham, Chebanse and Tri-Star Estates in Bourbonnais as well.
Stump said the savings can be used for other village services.
Sheriff Mike Downey said these types of contracts are becoming more common across the country as cash-strapped smaller municipalities are experiencing growing difficulties meeting the costs associated with operating a police department.
Like Stump, Downey said growing state regulations are making policing extremely difficult for smaller communities to maintain their own departments.
“These smaller departments just can’t keep up. There is simply too much liability to keep them going,” the sheriff said.
While Stump said trustees have been talking about this issue for several years, it just became too much. He added a 10-year revenue source associated with Aqua Illinois’ purchase of the village’s water system has forced the village to take an even closer look at its expenses.
Downey said his department will make the necessary adjustments so there is a police presence in Aroma Park. He noted a department official would also attend village board meetings to hear from residents and board officials.
“I’ve always said sharing resources, combining resources is good for the taxpayers,” Downey said. “This was strictly a municipality decision. We will continue to keep Aroma Park a safe community.”