MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is expected to unveil the County’s 2013 budget proposal to the Milwaukee County Board Thursday, September 27th. It’s a $1.3 million budget that Abele says does not raise tazes or rely on increased fees.
One objective of Abele’s budget is to make major improvements to Moody Park. The proposal would tear down the pool to make way for a splash pad, along with installing new basketball courts, a soccer field and a community garden.
Another highlight of Abele’s budget is no route cuts to the Milwaukee County Transit System for bus service, and no increase in bus fares.
The budget proposal getting the most attention, however, is a change in the way Milwaukee County Parks are policed. Abele wants parks patrolled by officers from the Milwaukee Police Department — not the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says Abele’s plan is ridiculous.
The new parks’ policing plan is the first major County/City initiative in over a decade. Under a negotiated agreement, the Milwaukee Police Department would formally assume policing duties in 2013 at County Parks in the city of Milwaukee — including the lakefront.
Milwaukee police will also handle cellular 911 calls made in the city of Milwaukee. That apparently eliminates the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office taking the calls and transferring them to Milwaukee.
Abele and Barrett say the agreement ensures the community will get better service in the Parks, the city will be compensated for their officers’ time in the Parks and the County will get increased transparency, save tax dollars and be assured that tax dollars allotted for Parks patrol are spent on Parks patrol.
“What`s happening now is you`re going to get better more coordinated public safety and it`s going to save tax dollars and that`s something I`m never going to make apologies for,” Abele said.
The plan would cut $3.1 million from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office budget, and $1.6 million would go to the Milwaukee Police Department to pick up patrols. $125,000 would go to suburban departments.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo said he’s leery of the plan. He worries $125,000 is not enough money to be divided between 18 cities.
“This is going to leave a big void when you take the Sheriff`s Department out of the equation and rely strictly on the smaller municipalities. I`m not going to save a buck and pinch a penny and have public safety suffer,” Sanfelippo said.
Supervisor Patricia Jursik represents suburban areas of the south shore, and agrees with Sanfelippo.
“He`s going to take $1.6 million and give it just to the City of Milwaukee and give everyone else $125,000. When you`re talking well over 50% of the park land, this does not make sense,” Jursik said.
Abele says public safety will not suffer. In fact, he says the departments will be financially rewarded for a job they’ve already been doing.
“The other cities’ police departments were already patrolling parks. They’re getting money for something they were doing already,” Abele said.
Oak Creek is one example of this. Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi told FOX6 News there are currently no County patrols of Bender Park. Because MPD is already patrolling the park, Scaffidi said Oak Creek would welcome any compensation for policing.
The controversial plan will be hammered out over the next few months, as Abele’s budget is debated.
“It`s almost like a sausage making process. What comes out in the end may look very different than what it did in the beginning,” Sanfelippo said.