HORSESHOE BEND, AR (KAIT) – The City of Horseshoe Bend is currentlyoperating in the red, and the mayor says the only way out is to make majorchanges to the police force.
Mayor Bob Barnes has proposed merging the Horseshoe BendPolice Department with the Izard County Sheriff's Office to create savings forthe city because the city's expenses currently exceed its revenue by almost$49,000.
"We're running lean and mean on everything," Barnes said. "Theonly place that I could find where we could cut was in the police department."
The mayor decided to meet with the Izard County sheriff todiscuss options. Sheriff Tate Lawrence explained that he could provideHorseshoe Bend with constant police protection by converting the local policestation into a substation for the sheriff's office and hiring the city's threefull-time officers as deputies.
Horseshoe Bend currently spends more than $305,000 annuallyon 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 shavealmost $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'regoing to have to deal with," Barnes said.
He says the proposal would generate savings, but would alsomean losing a few jobs. The city will likely have to cut five part-timedispatchers and one uncertified police officer if the plan is approved.
"It hurts to have to lay someone off, but you have to lookat 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 isbest for the future of the city."
The job loss has drawn criticism from residents like PaulaBeaver, whose brother-in-law is one of the city's dispatchers.
"As a mayor, he should want what the people want," Beaversaid.
She, however, is most concerned that eliminating the localpolice department will create less police presence in town. Mayor Barnes wouldlike to assure her that one sheriff's deputy would be on-duty around the clockif his proposal is passed.
"I hope the police department gets to stay," Beaver added.
The mayor will officially submit his proposal in July. Thecity's finance committee must first approve the plan before it can advance tothe City Council.
Barnes hopes that the Izard County Sheriff's Office can takethe reins from the Horseshoe Bend Police Department by August, when the currentpolice chief retires.