Winfield is poised to switch to a town marshal office. It's a step — a costly one — in the wrong direction.
The Winfield Town Council gave final approval last month to an ordinance to establish the office of town marshal.
Council President Gerald Stiener said the marshal won't replace the existing police protection provided by the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
That coverage is a bargain for the town. For just $125,000 a year, the county provides a 24/7 police coverage in that district. Figure in the cost of not just the officer's salary but also benefits, weapons, vehicle, radio and other equipment, and the cost of an officer quickly escalates.
And hiring a town marshal is just the start. The ordinance authorizes deputies as well. If the town is to have 24/7 coverage from a marshal or deputy, figure in not just three shifts a day, but also weekends, holidays and vacations.
The idea is to have the marshal patrol town parks or school safety zones, while leaving major crimes to the sheriff's police.
In doing so, the town will spend much more than it currently is to provide police protection to the town. It would be far cheaper to work with the sheriff's department to address concerns about speeding in school zones, for example, than to create a new public safety agency.
The town must establish fees and fines for violating town laws, Stiener said. In doing so, don't calculate the dollar amounts with the idea of funding the town marshal's office. The aim of any police agency should be to enhance public safety, not to generate revenue to justify its existence.
The council should rethink the decision to move to a town marshal system.
At a time when local government consolidation efforts is called for, when the sheriff's department protected the town well at far less cost than equipping even two officers, Winfield is not being prudent.