Village Council moves to create social work job within YSPD
- Published: December 21, 2017
At Village Council’s Dec. 4 meeting, Council members and the Yellow Springs Police Department moved closer to hiring a full-time community outreach specialist, a new position that leaders hope strengthens the department’s ability to address social-service related calls.
“It’s time,” Police Chief Brian Carlson stated to Council. “We need that extra set of hands, not necessarily from law enforcement.”
The new position, previously described as a social work job, was one of several recommendations to improve local policing made this year by the Justice System Task Force, or JSTF. Council approved the recommendation, and Carlson has been an enthusiastic advocate for the position.
Currently, about 80 percent of the department’s calls are social work-related and 20 percent are law enforcement-related, Carlson said at the meeting, although police officer training is about 80 percent oriented toward law enforcement and 20 percent toward social work.
“If this works, it will be amazing,” he said of the new position.
Council’s discussion regarding the new position began at a previous meeting, with concerns expressed that the job was then described as part-time, which perhaps would not cover the need. Concerns were also stated about funding the position out of the Village general fund. But at the Dec. 4 meeting, Carlson recommended that the position be full-time at 30 hours a week, and that it be funded from the police department budget, since there are currently three full-time officer positions open, and the outreach specialist could take the place of one officer.
Council member Gerry Simms questioned whether replacing an officer with a social worker would undermine public safety.
“I’m concerned with the safety of the officers,” he said. “We struggle to have adequate coverage.”
Council members Brian Housh, Marianne MacQueen and Karen Wintrow expressed their willingness to move forward with the new position, describing it as a pilot project.
“I strongly support this,” Housh said. “There’s a sense of urgency.”
But Council member Judith Hempfling stated that Council is moving ahead without adequate information. She also questioned how the position formerly identified as social worker has morphed into an outreach specialist, and whether this means the position would be more law-enforcement oriented. While Council had previously planned to have a police social worker speak via Skype to Council about the parameters of the job, that presentation had been cancelled due to technical difficulties, a change that Hempfling found troubling.
“Even if this is a pilot project, we should do our due diligence and make sure it’s the best it can be,” she said.
Council will vote on the position with an emergency ordinance at its Dec. 17 meeting, although discussion on the specifics of the position may continue at that time.
In other Council Dec. 4 business:
• Council members expressed support for a request from Glen Helen, the Active Transportation Committee and Bike Yellow Springs for a resolution of support and a pledge of $10,000 toward a feasibility study for a bike trail connecting Yellow Springs with Clifton.
“Its time has come,” said Marcia Sauer of Bike Yellow Springs, regarding a Yellow Springs-Clifton connector. Planners of the Little Miami Bike Trail intended since the late 1980s to include such a connector, and circumstances now have made it possible to move ahead.
“This idea to link Yellow Springs and Clifton goes back decades,” she said.
Council agreed to bring a resolution of support to its Dec. 18 meeting.
“I’d like to get this done on my watch,” said Council President Karen Wintrow, who is leaving Council the end of December.
• Village Assistant Manager Melissa Dodd recommended that the Village not enter into a Voluntary Tax Collection agreement with Airbnb, the online platform for short-term rentals. While signing on to the agreement could take the burden off Village staff for collecting the Village’s transient guest lodging tax, it appears to do so in a way that undermines transparency and fair tax collection, according to Dodd, who cited a study of the agreement by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
However, Dodd has created an online process for submitting the tax, which is paid by guests but collected by short-term rental hosts. That form can be found at a webpage under the Village Finance Department titled Lodging Tax at yso.com/department/division.php?structureid=67.
The first due date for the tax reporting is July, 2018.
• Council expressed approval for the purchase of a new valve exercise machine, which identifies when water lines have had maintenance, and a new bucket truck, following a presentation by Village Electric and Water Distribution Superintendent Johnnie Burns. The valve machine costs $67,375, and will come out of the water fund, while the bucket truck costs $134,281, and will be funded by the Village capital projects fund.
• Council unanimously approved a 2.5 percent pay increase for Village employees in 2018.
• Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that changes the composition of the Utility Dispute Resolution Board. While previously the board was comprised of three Village staff members and two citizens, going forward the board will consist of two community members appointed by Council and one appointed by the Village manager, who may or not be a Village employee. The concern was that the previous board was weighted too heavily toward Village staff and not enough toward the community, Dodd said.
• Council unanimously approved an endowment with the Community Foundation for the ongoing maintenance of the Yellow Springs Creek conservation area, located behind the Bryan Center.
• During Citizen Concerns, Laurie Stober expressed her concern about drugs that she believes are being sold out of a local coffee shop, which harmed a 17-year-old friend of hers.
• Police Chief Carlson and Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman invited the community to the annual New Year’s Eve Ball-Drop event, which this year is being sponsored by the fire department.
• Council’s next regular meeting will take place Monday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be preceded by an executive session at 5:30 p.m. which will focus on a review of the Council clerk.