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City Council discusses police collaboration and credit ratings

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Three Athens City Council committees met Monday night to discuss collaboration between the Athens and Ohio University police departments, a contract with the Washington County Jail and the how the city’s credit rating will affect bonds.

Athens Police Chief Thomas Pyle spoke about the payment system between APD and OUPD that compensates APD for providing assistance to OUPD at events such as basketball and football games, Halloween and fests.

Pyle suggested that APD not enter into a formal contract with OUPD and instead continue providing the services and personnel for special events as they have in the past. He estimates that these services would total about 300 hours a year and would cost around $50 per hour, making the total annual amount reimbursed to the city approximately $15,000.

“What they were asking for simply was not representative of the true collaborative effort of our two department staffs that we’d like to foster for the future,” Pyle said.

In addition to this collaboration between the two police departments, the council talked about entering into a contract with the Washington County Jail, which would allow inmates to be transferred there when the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail is at capacity in an effort to reduce personnel time being used for transport.

Currently, when SEORJ is full and inmates cannot be released to a sober friend or relative, police have to transport them to another jail with available space, most of which are farther away than the Washington County Jail.

The Finance & Personnel Committee discussed the possibility of the city’s credit rating being downgraded from its current AA2 rating to an AA3 rating, which would result in a higher interest rate on the bond the city is taking to cover its new pool.

According to City Auditor Kathy Hecht, the credit rating could drop in part because of the cash reserve compared to the last time the rating was examined.

“It’s a whole matrix of issues that they compare to see whether you can handle this debt and what your credit rating should be,” Hecht said. “One of the big issues right now is the way they require us to post our pension liabilities.”

At this time, the council does not know exactly how much money needs to be borrowed, but Mayor Steve Patterson said he told MSA Sports, the company designing the future pool, that the cost needs to be under $7.3 million.

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