Horseshoe Bend mayor proposes merging police with sheriff's offi - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Horseshoe Bend mayor proposes merging police with sheriff's office

HORSESHOE BEND, AR (KAIT) – The City of Horseshoe Bend is currently operating in the red, and the mayor says the only way out is to make major changes to the police force.

Mayor Bob Barnes has proposed merging the Horseshoe Bend Police Department with the Izard County Sheriff's Office to create savings for the city because the city's expenses currently exceed its revenue by almost $49,000.

"We're running lean and mean on everything," Barnes said. "The only place that I could find where we could cut was in the police department."

The mayor decided to meet with the Izard County sheriff to discuss options. Sheriff Tate Lawrence explained that he could provide Horseshoe Bend with constant police protection by converting the local police station into a substation for the sheriff's office and hiring the city's three full-time officers as deputies.

Horseshoe Bend currently spends more than $305,000 annually on its police budget. Merging with the sheriff's office would cost about $240,000 each year, according to the mayor, so that would allow the city to shave almost $80,000 from its budget.

"If something is not done to our spending, our expenditures, then in about four years, there's going to be a major cash flow problem that we're going to have to deal with," Barnes said.

He says the proposal would generate savings, but would also mean losing a few jobs. The city will likely have to cut five part-time dispatchers and one uncertified police officer if the plan is approved.

"It hurts to have to lay someone off, but you have to look at the overall picture and what's good for the majority and good for the whole," Barnes said. "This is nothing personal. I just feel like it's my responsibility, my duty to do what's best and give guidance and direct them to what I think is best for the future of the city."

The job loss has drawn criticism from residents like Paula Beaver, whose brother-in-law is one of the city's dispatchers.

"As a mayor, he should want what the people want," Beaver said.

She, however, is most concerned that eliminating the local police department will create less police presence in town. Mayor Barnes would like to assure her that one sheriff's deputy would be on-duty around the clock if his proposal is passed.

"I hope the police department gets to stay," Beaver added.

The mayor will officially submit his proposal in July. The city's finance committee must first approve the plan before it can advance to the City Council.

Barnes hopes that the Izard County Sheriff's Office can take the reins from the Horseshoe Bend Police Department by August, when the current police chief retires.

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