Put-in-Bay Police Commission Tackles Tough Island Challenges

Chief Kimble and Put-in-Bay Police

The Put-in-Bay Police Commission met at Town Hall on Tuesday evening from 6pm to 7:30pm.  Members present include Mayor Jessica Dress, Chief of Police James Kimble, and Village Council members Brad Cerny, Craig Cox, Judy Berry, and Courtney Blumensadt.  The Put-in-Bay Township Trustee member was not present.  Roughly fifteen members of the Island community attended.

Councilwoman Judy Berry, a former mayor of Put-in-Bay, opened the meeting by identifying critical issues faced by the Police Department.  The primary concern addressed staffing, which Ms. Berry reported is a local, state, and nationwide problem.  Ohio State Patrol only graduated 36 State Troopers in a recent OSP Class, according to Chief Kimble.  The Commission meetings are being held, “to see where we can go during these times; we’re not well-funded and we need money,” she said.

One priority being addressed is collecting all the Resort Tax funds owed to the Village.  Only three entities receive the Resort Tax in Ohio:  Put-in-Bay Village, Put-in-Bay Township, and Kelleys Island.  While the State of Ohio does not reveal who pays and who does not, the State is not enforcing payment of the 1.5% Resort Tax, 90% of which goes to police departments.  Ms. Berry reports that she and Matt Miller of Put-in-Bay Township are working on compliance, and that a revision to enforcement policies “requires a vote in the State Legislature.”  Mayor Dress said, “Our new council members are united in taking a stand to hold business owners accountable.”

 

Councilwoman Berry and Mayor Dress

Moving forward, the Commission will consult a tax attorney about implementing an island head tax, one possibly to be administered by Miller Boat Line.  “Our contention is that we need to beef up the Put-in-Bay Police Department; not for residents, but for tourists,” Ms. Berry added.

Councilman Craig Cox explained, “This is an Island issue, not only in the Village.  We need a whole system in place–a package.  Short-term fixes are not enough.  To that end we’re working with the Chief on specifics with a systematic approach.”  The process is identified as, “Framework for Safety and Security,” and it has four components:

  1. Staffing based on research–how many supervisors are needed, how many patrol officers/detectives, how many full-time year round and full-time seasonal positions, how many seasonal part-time positions?
  2. Equipment priorities–how many handguns, how many stun-guns, how many handcuffs, how many cameras, what types of uniforms, what additional weaponry needs, and how many and type of vehicles?
  3. Training requirements–what level of police training is most appropriate for Put-in-Bay?
  4. Housing–what type of housing do police need if Put-in-Bay wants to attract highly qualified, experienced officers–some with families?

Current police enforcement is a real concern among Island residents.  Community members who spoke at the meeting reported under-age drivers on golf carts, reckless moped driving, babies in parents’ laps instead of a child seat, and increasing public drunkenness.  Councilwoman Berry noted, “Logistics of this Island are significantly related to the business owners, so it might be time to consider a moratorium on golf carts and a reassessment of liquor licenses.”  Mr. Cox added that many of the concerns are out of local control because of Ottawa County and Ohio rules which are only lightly enforced.  “It’s a quagmire, to say the least,” he said.  The Ohio State Patrol is not a “state police,” and as such only have jurisdiction on state roads and with sobriety check points.  Chief Kimble added, “Put-in-Bay sees between 10 and 15,000 people per weekend.”  This puts incredible strain on the Department.  This past weekend, over 100 parking citations were issued.

Mayor Dress explained, “Keeping the peace is a priority, however you can do it,” when questioned about the lack of enforcement.  She added, “The jail is only a 6-hour holding facility, and it takes two officers for prisoner transport to the mainland, thereby reducing police presence in an already understaffed department.”  It was also reported the lack of a civilian dispatcher reduces the number of officers on the street.

When asked how the Put-in-Bay Police would respond to a mass-shooting incident, Chief Kimble responded the protocol is to immediately contact other law enforcement agencies (such as US Coast Guard, ODNR, Ohio Investigative Unit, Sheriff’s Tactical Unit) and to execute an action-plan with equipment already in place.  As a member of the FBI Terrorism Task Force, the Chief has been assured that two Black Hawk Helicopters out of Detroit are available for immediate response.  He also said two emergency drills, unbeknown to the public, have taken place on South Bass Island.  Mr. Cox added, “Unfortunately, Put-in-Bay School does not have a Police Resource Officer.”  Ms. Berry pointed out the Village Council is willing to enter into a collaborative agreement with the Put-in-Bay Township in this regard.

In closing, the Put-in-Bay Police Commission agreed to meet twice per month, on the first and third Tuesday, effective 2 August 2022.  At that time the Commission may include an agenda in its public posting of meeting times.