WINFIELD | Lake County Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez wants to assure town residents their town is included in his department's hunt for a killer who has set Northwest Indiana on edge.
A man wanted for killing one person and wounding two others in random shootings in rural Will County and Lake County remained at large Wednesday, heightening concerns for local residents who have been without routine police patrols since Dominguez stopped them Friday.
Town officials refuse to make a $100,000 payment to the county the sheriff is seeking to defray the cost of future nonemergency police protection by his department. They have considered hiring a town marshal but have not done so.
Dominguez said Wednesday he isn't restoring routine patrols, which he said were being subsidized unfairly by other county taxpayers who also must pay for their local police departments.
"(The Town Council) didn't turn me down. They turned their own residents down," the sheriff said.
The two candidates facing voters next month to replace the outgoing Dominguez, once again pledged their support for Winfield.
John Buncich, the Democratic candidate, said, "Assuming success on Nov. 2, I will begin working with them on an agreement restoring service over there. I think the current sheriff's action to just pull protection was knee-jerk. You never know when an emergency could occur, like the shooting (Tuesday), which could have occurred (in Winfield) and have been catastrophic."
Republican candidate Dan Bursac said, "We would respond to any kind of calls."
He and Buncich agree Winfield will have to pay some amount to reimburse the county for the services. The county is under an austerity program that is reducing spending by county police by $2 million in 2011.
County Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said the County Council cannot bail out the town.
"Where would we come up with the additional $100,000? They have been locked into a levy. They can pledge low taxes, but because of it they are not able to fund one of the basic necessities -- law enforcement -- that we pay taxes for," Bilski said. "Look at New Chicago. They have a small assessed value, but they manage to have a police department."
County Councilman Larry Blanchard, R-Crown Point, whose district encompasses Winfield, said he cannot blame Winfield for its troubles.
"Those 4,400 folks pay $365 a year each to support county government, which is more than they pay their own town government," Blanchard said. "We county officials and state legislators are somewhat responsible for sticking them in a hard place because we haven't adopted an income tax, and state legislators have frozen our property tax levy because we haven't."