Subscribe for 33¢ / day

WINFIELD — Intent on growing its own police force, town officials are taking a new look at its police protection contract with the Lake County Sheriff's Department.

Since its establishment in 1993, Winfield has been policed by county officers. Then, in October 2010, Lake County Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez pulled patrols from the town because Winfield officials failed to contact him about a $100,000 payment he was seeking from the town to continue police service. 

Dominguez, facing county budget cuts, began pressing Winfield for compensation in 2008.

Dominguez restored county police patrols to Winfield about 10 days later after an interlocal agreement was reached between the county and Winfield to provide county police protection to the suburban community of more than 4,000 in return for the town beginning to make installment payments that would amount to $100,000 over the next 12 months.

The town has had a yearly contract with the county ever since. This year's contract for $135,000 expires Dec. 31.

Last year, Winfield doubled its own town marshal police force after hiring a full-time deputy marshal. The town, which also utilizes several part-time officers, plans to hire a third full-time deputy in 2018. 

Because of its growing marshal service, town council members and other leaders plan to sit down with Sheriff Oscar Martinez and come up with a new contract at a reduced rate. 

"We crawl, we walk, we run," Town Council President Gerald Stiener said. "We crawled with (Town Marshal) Dan Ball just getting it going and working out any bugs that are in there. ... We feel like now we're walking because we have two officers, and we'd like to get a third officer. We also have some part-time officers."

The town will be "running" when it has a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week police force, Steiner said.

"We're not there yet, but we're getting closer to be able to just do it on our own," Stiener said. "And that is the ultimate goal. Is it going to happen next year? No."

Stiener said he's already spoken with Martinez, who he said had some great suggestions for putting together a three- and five-year plan for the town's police expansion.

A growing town

This year, Winfield has issued 87 building permits for single-family homes compared to 50 in 2016.

Ball said with the community growing and adding residents and businesses, Winfield police want to match those needs. 

"It's working out the way I thought it would," Ball said. "The council has been extremely supportive and encouraging. And the community really embraced the new idea of having their own police department. I definitely see this growing."

The town is currently working on a new police station located at the Town Hall that will feature offices and a patrol room. 

"As we are growing, we are going to need a little more space," Ball said. "We're looking forward to that."

Expenses for the marshal's office and supplies for 2017 were just over $8,000. Salaries and benefits for the department were $90,175. Adding equipment, capital expenses and other services and charges amounts to total expenses of $251,620. 

Total revenue brought in for the year was $19,190. That comes from violations such as local tickets and tow releases ($1,270), traffic tickets ($2,789), traffic deferral fees ($11,241), continuing education ($304), VIN checks ($265), accident reports ($690) and marshal donations ($2,630).


Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.