Small cities and towns have been the worst-hit victims of the property-tax caps. In the decade since their introduction, the caps have forced such communities to either reduce or eliminate services, or burden residents by raising taxes and adopting new user fees in an effort to maintain those services.
Bicknell is not the first community to face the problem of low pay for its police officers; Vincennes continues to be challenged by the higher pay surrounding cities can offer to tempt officers to flee its force.
Bicknell officials, working with the sheriff's department, have come up with a plan that would substitute sheriff's deputies for Bicknell officers in an effort to provide some level of long-term police protection for the community.
It is not a perfect plan, as even its supporters will acknowledge.
And, judging by the crowd in attendance at this week's special meeting of the city council, it's not a popular plan, either — although we've been told not to judge all of the community by the behavior of just those in the audience that night.
According to the mayor, last year the city spent almost $525,000 to provide law enforcement protection for its homes and businesses — a hefty sum for Bicknell.
Under the plan approved by the city council on Monday night and now being reviewed by county officials, Bicknell would save close to $200,000.
Some of that money could, we assume, be used to pay auxiliary officers to be on call, to fill in if the sheriff's deputies assigned to Bicknell were called away — helping to alleviate some of the concerns voiced (vociferously) by those attending Monday's meeting.
There were also calls for the hiring of local officers, and there were at least five members of the audience who said they had filled out applications for positions with the Bicknell Police Dept.
Our hope would be that, if the current agreement is finally approved, those men (and any others in Bicknell, whether man or women, who feel they are qualified) apply for the new sheriff's department positions.
If successful they would provide at least a semblance of a hometown feel to the force.
The goal here is that residents of Bicknell be protected, and short of the city adopting a new local tax, or taking money away from other areas to provide higher pay for officers, what's been proposed (or a version of it that's been satisfactorily tweaked) may just have to suffice — at least for the time being.