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Application for more officers gets the go-ahead

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Judge Allan Schmalenberger speaks in favor of adding additional officers to the Stark County Sheriff's Department during a special Stark County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

More law enforcement may be making its way to the area.

The Stark County Sheriff's Department and Dickinson Police Department are applying for a federal grant which covers all wages and benefits for an officer's first three years. In return, the agency must keep the positions for a fourth year and pay the wages and benefits for that year.

County Commissioner Ken Zander is not in favor adding the positions. He is worried they'll have to increase taxes to support the positions in the fourth year.

The grant money must be used for new hires, to rehire officers who have been laid off or to prevent officers from being laid off.

"I've been asking for two deputies since 2003 because we've seen an increase in calls," Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said at a special County Commission meeting Tuesday.

Tuhy said he wants positions added to help with security at the Stark County District Courthouse. He said security is the Sheriff's Department's responsibility.

There is not an officer throughout the day at the courthouse. Tuhy wanted to apply for four new positions, but the commission only allowed for two.

Judge Allan Schmalenberger said several people in court make threats against judges and others involved with cases.

"I do find it ironic that the best security provided in Stark County is at the Law Enforcement Center, where everybody that works there carries a gun and everything is locked down," Schmalenberger said, adding eight counties use the courthouse. "In every other county the Sheriff is located inside the courthouse, so security in those courthouses, ironically, is better than provided here in Stark County."

Deputies go to many hearings, but they do not usually attend hearings like divorce and small claims unless they are asked to.

"I've had people more upset at small claims court cases than in criminal cases," Schmalenberger said. "You just don't know what it's going to be."

DPD Lt. Rod Banyai said they would hire two new patrol officers if they get the grant.

"With the extra two officers we could provide a better service out there," Banyai said.

The grant would not cover items like fuel consumption, uniforms, weapons and training. However, Banyai said other grants could help defray those costs.