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Mayor wants resolution on police merger
February 17, 2011 Jerry Purvis   
A proposal to merge the Gering and Scottsbluff police departments has been discussed since March of 2010 and Gering Mayor Ed Mayo wants a definitive decision.
“It’s time for the police merger to go to bed, one way or another,” Mayo said. “The committees have had opportunities to make their final reports. This needs to get off the dime and it needs to go somewhere.”
Mayo added an agenda item to the Dec. 13, 2010 city council meeting to vote on the proposed merger. However, it was tabled as some council members who also served on the research committees wanted to read the final reports and let the full council know the findings.
“Those reports have been made and all the council members from Gering have been brought up to speed,” Mayo said. “Our final step is to hold this joint session and then call the vote. The councils can either accept or reject it.”
The joint public meeting of the Gering and Scottsbluff city councils has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24 at the Gering Civic Center.
Mayo said as far as he could tell, the council vote could go either way. Some members support the merger, while others are in opposition.
The mayor doesn’t vote under Gering city administrator form of government, except to break ties. But Mayo said the numbers prove to him a merger would not be good for Gering. “I don’t foresee anything coming out that’s much different than what I already know.”
Mayo said his two major objections to the merger are in the areas of accountability and loss of service.
“Regardless of promises of how much more service we’ll have in Gering, ultimately everyone will drift over to where the crime is, and that’s Scottsbluff,” he said. “Right now, if we have a problem with the police department, the council can address it directly. Under a merger, problems would go to an independent board. That just creates another level of bureaucracy and takes accountability one level further away from the people.”
Under the proposed merger, the cities would create a separate political subdivision with taxing authority to administer local law enforcement. State statute allows the creation of these political subdivisions by a vote of both city councils, not a vote of the residents.
“We’ve got a good response time with our police department,” Mayo said. “If all our officers are stationed across the river, they’ll have a harder time getting here for real emergencies.”
He added that if the proposed merger is voted down, it doesn’t mean the two departments will no longer help each other out. Both departments will continue to respond to each other’s calls in emergency cases when help is needed.

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I have a feeling that the civic center is going to see quite a crowd next thursday! As a resident of Gering, and a business owner in Scottsbluff, I reckon I should go see what happens. I really like the approach the new mayor is taking. We'll see what happens!
- Brian Hale [2011-02-18 01:19:41]