By NICK VLAHOS
For The Weekly Post
PRINCEVILLE – Future police protection in Princeville might not be as comprehensive as it is now. Or it might remain the same but cost local taxpayers more money.
Peoria County Sheriff Chris Watkins plans to offer options for the Princeville Village Board to consider before it decides whether to renew its service contract. A decision is likely later this month or in early December. With a projected increase of about $35,000 over a five-year period, the status quo – eight hours of patrols, seven days a week – might be a difficult sell.
“I think everyone here in town wants this, but when you look at these numbers, I don’t know if I could ever vote for spending that kind of money,” Village Trustee Ron Delbridge said.
Delbridge spoke Monday night during a Village Board meeting Watkins attended. Peoria County Board Member Brian Elsasser, who represents Princeville, was there, too.
Neither county official appeared pleased about the proposed increase. Watkins said it’s related to an analysis a third-party consultant provided the county regarding how much it costs to provide regular police protection.
Watkins said his department charges some of clients 100 percent of the cost. Most municipalities, including Princeville, aren’t assessed full price. For Princeville, that annual amount would be about $177,000.
“We know every once in a while, one of our cars gets pulled off for an accident a mile or two out of town. That eliminates that 100 percent,” Watkins, who assumed office in July, told the board. “You guys will never see 100 percent as long as I’m around. I know it’s a lot of money.”
Under a contract that expires at the end of this year, the village is paying the county about $130,000 in 2022. In exchange, Princeville receives a dedicated deputy from 6:45 p.m. until 2:45 a.m. each day. The same deputy works Monday to Friday, typically.
Village President Jeff Troutman said police-protection costs have risen 2-4 percent annually, which he deemed reasonable. But according to the proposed five-year contract, the cost is to jump about $10,000 in 2023 and increase steadily to almost $168,000 in 2027.
“We shouldn’t try to make ends meet on the backs of small communities,” Elsasser said.
According to Watkins, the only practical alternative is for the village to receive five hours of service daily. Hours would be random.
Troutman suggested shorter shifts daily or full shifts Tuesdays through Saturdays, or perhaps a hybrid in which a deputy is in town for six dedicated hours but pursues other county policing for two. Watkins and the current regular Princeville deputy, Gabe Martinez, indicated that wouldn’t work.
“There’s not a guarantee (deputies) would be free from a call and come up here to get the six hours,” Martinez said.
The Village Board also could decide to forego regular patrols entirely. Deputies then would respond to local calls as needed, as is the current situation when officers are off duty.
Eschewing consistent coverage almost certainly would increase response times in Princeville, which is at the northern edge of Peoria County. It might be a price some village officials are willing to pay.
“The town’s going to be covered one way or another,” Delbridge said.
“There’s going to be a deputy showing up. I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to vote for that (increase). That’s an awful lot of money for something we’re going to get anyway.”
By NICK VLAHOS