VILLA HILLS, Ky. - A meeting some hoped would shed light on the future of the Villa Hills Police Department quickly erupted into a shouting match Wednesday evening.
Concerned citizens armed with signs and strong opinions showed up to the city council meeting expecting to be able to voice their opinions on a controversial plan to merge its police force with another city's department.
However, Mayor Mike Martin quickly informed people in attendance that public comment on that topic would not be heard during the event.
"That is pretty typical of the mayor," Larry Heinzelman said. "If it's a topic he doesn't want to discuss, he puts the bosh on it. He doesn't allow freedom of speech in this city."
Mayor Martin said the reason he stopped citizens from speaking at the meeting was because Villa Hills plans to hold public hearings in the future.
"One of the reasons is we are going to have public hearings," Mayor Martin said. "Ever since the decision was made with police department proposals, we have not decided anything. Even before we considered anything I committed to having public hearings."
The mayor said he proposed the idea to combine the city's seven-officer police department with an undetermined city as a cost-cutting option. The city's budget is tight and Villa Hills is looking for ways to ensure it doesn't have to cut corners in other areas of its infrastructure.
While the city might see the law enforcement plan as a possible way to save money, some residents question whether it's a wise public safety move given a recent string of break-ins in the neighborhood. They want government decision-makers to listen to their opinions on the matter.
"I believe public safety is the most basic city service we have, and it concerns me," Loraine Braun said. "We are one officer short, at the height of the break-ins which have hit around me as well."
Mayor Martin said he wouldn't have proposed the plan if he thought it would compromise the safety of the community.
"We wouldn't do it if it was a public safety issue," he said.
The mayor said he doesn't know when the public hearings will be held, but says residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions about the outsourcing at that time.
No decision will be made until the public has had a chance to provide its input, according to Mayor Martin.