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Portage police station

Portage police station, 6260 Central Ave.

File, The Times

PORTAGE — The City Council president is taking the mayor and police chief to task for spending $6,000 per month in overtime for city hall security.

Since Feb. 21, a police officer earning overtime has been stationed in the lobby of Portage City Hall, raising the ire of Portage City Council President Mark Oprisko and some others on the council who believe the security is excessive and unnecessary.

The overtime is being paid at a rate of $6,000 per month, Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham confirmed. The police department’s annual budget for overtime is $125,000.

In an email exchange Sunday with police Chief Troy Williams, Oprisko noted an officer continues to be stationed at city hall even after the due date for utility bills, now paid in the clerk-treasurer's office, and before new bills have been sent.

Williams said Tuesday the officer is stationed at city hall to provide security for the entire building, not just the clerk-treasurer’s office.

Williams presented recommendations in a preliminary security report to the council at its last meeting, he said. He declined to discuss those details Tuesday but said he expects the matter to be resolved within a few weeks.

“I don’t anticipate this lasting all that long,” he said in regard to the use of overtime to station a police officer in the city hall lobby.

Mayor James Snyder has proposed building a new Portage City Hall, but that’s not going to happen soon, Oprisko said, because the city has too much debt.

In recent years, the city has built a new fire station on Central Avenue and turned the underutilized University Center building into a police station.

Oprisko’s persistent questions about use of police resources have led Chief Williams to ask the council to replace Oprisko as liaison to the police department.

So far, no one on the council has responded to his request issued in an email Sunday, Williams said.

Questions about the use of police resources in the city began last year after Snyder took Williams and a deputy to Washington, D.C., for a conference and to attend President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The battle between the council and Snyder intensified last year when the council seized control of the Utility Services Board after the indicted mayor asked their help paying his legal bills. Snyder recently sued the council over control of the Utility Services Board.

The last two to three months, Oprisko said, have been "pretty tough" for Portage officials. Stationing an officer at city hall made matters worse, he said.

"I consider myself a reasonable person, but this put us over the edge," Oprisko said.

"Clearly he's got some alternate agenda," Williams said of Oprisko.


Porter/LaPorte County Editor

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.