Wetumpka AL Jan 30 2011 In two months the Wetumpka Police Department will turn over 41 square miles of its police jurisdiction to the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department.
The city limits will become the outer edge of Wetumpka police officers’ responsiblity, based on a plan by the Wetumpka City Council to cut costs by ceasing city services outside the city limits.
With the clock ticking, Sheriff Bill Franklin and the Elmore County Commission are hustling to make sure there’s no interruption in vital police service.
Wetumpka’s still answering calls in the police jurisdiction, though they’ve ceased regular patrols. But as of April 1, sheriff’s deputies will be responsible for “everything from barking dogs, to serving subpoenas to a murder call,” Franklin said.
Franklin submitted a proposal Monday night to hire three patrol deputies and one investigator in response to the impending expansion of territory.
Commissioner David Bowen said he was shocked “by the low number you gave.”
“I was surprised that you’re prepared to pick up more than half the city’s call volume with four new officers.”
Franklin said he asked for what he thought was feasible.
“Some would come in here with double digits, but I realize there’s only so much gold to go around,” he said. “And this gentleman’s about to ask for some gold, and (another county official) needs some of that gold …”
The WPD has 20 officers when at full staff who were responsible for police matters in a 51 square-mile area. After the pullback, those 20 will cover just 12 square miles.
The sheriff’s department currently has 32 deputies who patrol 628 square miles, along with more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, according to Franklin.
“Our manpower is about what they have, but our square mileage is 62 times more,” Franklin noted.
Now much of the county territory, like Kowaliga, Titus or Weoka, is sparsely populated. An extra 41 miles of that area wouldn’t be a problem. But Wetumpka’s PJ, he said, “is a congested, highly populated 41 miles.”
The salary and benefits for the additional three patrolmen and one investigator will cost the county $164,000, Franklin said.
Commissioners tabled the official decision to add personnel, but they approved personnel from the jail to attend the police academy March 7 to prepare to be promoted to the patrol division.
“Sheriff Franklin has done more with less (resources) than any sheriff in the state, I believe,” Commissioner Joe Faulk said. “The timing is bad, but it’s our responsibility to act.”