Fairfield, RW laud policing pact

Ridgeway Mayor Heath Cookendorfer, front, and Fairfield County Sheriff Will Montgomery comment about the county’s new arrangement to police Ridgeway. | Michael Smith

RIDGEWAY – Fairfield County and Ridgeway elected leaders are calling it a win-win arrangement.

Following the defunding of the Ridgeway Police Department, the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office will now police the town of 319 residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s County Council meeting, Sheriff Will Montgomery said off-duty deputies would spend about six hours per day policing the town. That may increase if and when Ridgeway sees a need to increase police presence, he said.

“It gives the deputies an opportunity to make some extra money, so that’s another good thing,” Montgomery said.

Ridgeway Mayor Heath Cookendorfer said he’s excited by the new intergovernmental agreement.

“We’re getting some great feedback from citizens,” Cookendorfer said. “This is something we’d be using for just six hours with the option to increase hours as we need or see the need for, as well as more days.”

Earlier this month, Ridgeway Town Council voted to disband and defund the town’s police department and the former chief, Christopher Culp.

The vote came following a flotilla of complaints lodged against the chief.

Many complained the chief spent a disproportionate amount of time doubling as a de facto school resource officer at Geiger Elementary School at the expense of policing the town.

Other complaints cited general rudeness, according to documents The Voice obtained from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

The tone at Monday night’s County Council meeting was much more positive, however.

“We appreciate the county allowing us to enter into an agreement,” Cookendorfer said.

Specific costs weren’t mentioned, though Town Councilman Dan Martin reported at the Aug. 9 Town Council meeting that the switch to using county law enforcement services would save the Town approximately $70,000 annually.  Under the agreement, the Town of Ridgeway would be responsible for paying for gas for police vehicles, while the county would handle vehicle maintenance.

Montgomery didn’t see those as issues.

“We’re already in the town of Ridgeway, so that’s not a big deal. Most of the time they [deputies] are on foot,” he said.

In other business, the council voted 6-0 to give Montgomery approval to apply for an $11,251 JAG grant to purchase a Ranger utility vehicle.

Montgomery said the vehicle would be a helpful tool during special events. He said it could also be used to help search for missing persons.

Council members noted it also would be helpful during wildfires or other natural disasters.

“It will be a great addition to our department, a great tool for our department,” Montgomery said.

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