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Gering rejects police merger
February 27, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
The Scottsbluff City Council unanimously joined the 7-1 vote of the Gering City Council to drop a proposed formal merger of both police departments under a separate political subdivision.

Instead, the councils agreed to enhance the interlocal police agreement in place since 1999. The agreement outlines areas where the police offer assistance between the departments.

Gering Police Chief Mel Griggs outlined many areas where the police departments are already offering mutual assistance.

Both councils agreed the police departments should continue examining their entire operations and developing ways they can do more with fewer resources.
“I think the police chiefs should continue talking with each other on a regular basis,” said Gering council member Jill McFarland. “That’s just part of the job that you continue to look for best practices and try to improve your individual departments to be more cost effective. That’s just the way it works.”

McFarland’s motion called for the City of Gering to discontinue formal discussions on a merged police department. It also called for the departments to continue pursuing enhancements to the existing interlocal agreement.

The lone no vote was from Gering council member Joyce Hillman-Kortum. She assumed that the motion would stop any effort toward working together.
“No one wants their taxes increased, but they have to be unless we work together,” she said. “We’re already taking money from other areas to support the police budget and the future is going to be brutal. You have to keep your options open.”

Gering Mayor Ed Mayo reassured Hillman-Kortum the motion only stopped the formal merger. The cities will continue working together on numerous projects, both in the police department and in other areas.

After the meeting, Mayo said the city is open to working with its sister city, but he said he is pleased the merger issue has been laid to rest.
“It’s time it went to bed,” he said, “and there’s no reason why we can’t work on enhancing our interlocal agreement.”

Mayo added that the cities should cooperate together to enhance the services they provide.

“But that needs to involve the sheriff as well,” he said.

Look for a complete story about the joint merger meeting in the next issue of the Gering Citizen.
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Great job by both mayors and councils. I got the feeling that everyone's desire is to work together... and like one older gentleman from the crowd said, 'I cooperate with my neighbor, I am NOT merging with him'. Great job everyone. This could make our two communities even stronger if worked properly.
- Brian Hale [2011-02-24 08:51:29]