Middleport residents worried about public safety after police layoffs

Posted on:

< < Back to

MIDDLEPORT, Ohio (WOUB) — Middleport residents are concerned about public safety now that its police force has been cut in half.  

The Village Council held a special meeting Monday evening to address the community’s worries. This came nearly a week after Mayor Ben Nease announced the layoffs and hours after Police Chief Mony Wood resigned. 

Nease reassured residents they would be protected. 

“We should leave today knowing that we still have a police department,” Nease said. “We still have three officers and I hope we can be back on our feet by January or February. That’s not a promise.”

Middleport Village Council inside a packed Village Hall.
The Middleport Village Council held an emergency meeting Monday to hear public concerns about cuts to the police force. [Donovan Varney | WOUB]
The village found itself in the midst of a financial crisis after approving pay raises for the police department last year. Numbers presented

by the village’s former fiscal officer showing how this would affect the budget were inaccurate. Also, officers worked significantly more hours than anticipated.

The combination of the two depleted the village’s general fund. At one point, the fund had just over $400 remaining. 

The situation led to the announcement last week that two full-time and two part-time officers would be laid off at the end of the month, leaving the village with only three full-time officers. 

On Monday, the police chief resigned, saying he felt village officials blamed him for the situation. 

“I never thought the blame would be flipped on me, never in a million years, I love this town and the people,” Wood said in his letter of resignation, which he posted on his Facebook page. 

Middleport police officers will work at the jail and only be dispatched to calls they deem an emergency. 

“I just don’t know how this town is gonna survive with three officers when they’re gonna stay in the jail, unless they consider it an emergency call,” Middleport resident Kelly Buzzard said. 

Buzzard isn’t the only community member with safety concerns. Lori Garnes is worried that fewer officers on patrol will make the village’s drug problems worse. 

“We see it at nighttime, it’s gotten worse. To me, I’m getting more cameras at my house because I know the situation’s got worse,” Garnes said.

Middleport resident Yvonne Scally being interviewed outside of the Village Hall.
Longtime Middleport resident Yvonne Scally proposed a way to keep the streets safe. “We will get a neighborhood watch started. The druggies will know the presence,” she said. [Donovan Varney | WOUB]
While the village’s general fund recovers, the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office will assist Middleport on non-emergency calls. The goal is to have a deputy on patrol at all times, unless they’re dispatched elsewhere. 

Meigs County Sheriff Scott Fitch attended the Village Council meeting, and assured residents they would be kept safe.

“Just because you live in the village of Middleport doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the same police protection as people that live outside the jurisdiction,” Fitch said. “So, we’re doing everything in our power to provide that service to you.” 

Yvonne Scally has lived in Middleport all her life and is ready to step up to help keep her village safe. 

“I just talked with the mayor; we will get a neighborhood watch started. The druggies will know the presence. We’ll have the signs in the yard,” Scally said.

Middleport Fiscal Officer Sue Baker reminded the community that the situation is only temporary. 

“We are recovering already. We’re only about a week or two into it, but it is happening,” Baker said.  

The village plans to bring the police department back to full force once the general fund has recovered.