VILLA HILLS, Ky. - The latest chapter in the tumultuous recent history of Villa Hills was written Wednesday evening at a special caucus meeting designed to let citizens and government members voice their opinions on the future of the community's police department.
The meeting at River Ridge Elementary School focused on a plan to combine Villa Hills' seven-officer police department with an undetermined city.
Mayor Mike Martin proposed the plan as 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.
"Whatever becomes of what we decide to do with our police department, whatever options we have, we will not compromise public safety or the level of service, but we have to evaluate it," Martin said during the meeting.
Martin said the city still has a long way to go before it's ready to make any decisions. Analysts still need to figure out how much money could be saved and how best to utilize it before city officials take action.
While she understands the mayor's concern for Villa Hills' financial standing, city councilwoman Amy Balson doesn't know if the decision to consolidate the police force is a wise decision.
"Given the increase in crime in our city, as well as our neighboring cities, I find it hard to believe that outsourcing our police would increase the safety of our citizens in Villa Hills," she said.
Many concerned citizens echoed Balson's sentiments during Wednesday's meeting. They fear for the wellbeing of their community.
However, some residents believe Martin's proposal isn't only about finances. They believe it's somewhat personal.
Lauren Braun is one of those people. She said she thinks Martin is has an ax to grind.
"I want to say thank you to our police department for being so professional in spite of being bullied by a mayor who has a personal ax to grind," Braun said.
Martin has had a long list of controversial happenings take place while in office.
In May 2012, Martin faced criminal charges after an investigation found that he burned city documents and violated ethics ordinances. Also, he performed electrical work in Kentucky without the proper license, which is a misdemeanor in the Bluegrass state.
Despite many residents' calls to remove Martin as mayor, city council decided to allow him to serve out the rest of his term after they failed to vote unanimously following his three-day removal hearing in October 2012. Martin's term goes through Jan. 1, 2014.
Due in part to the controversy during Martin's administration, critics of the mayor have been vocal during recent public meetings.
A March meeting on the policing issue erupted into a shouting match and Martin silenced the outspoken citizens in attendance. Martin threatened to arrest residents if they disrupted city council meetings.
While Villa Hills residents were able to comment during Wednesday's meeting, Martin opened the meeting with comments and ground rules, and then attendees had an opportunity to speak. They had to sign in and keep their responses to three minutes.
Donna Vogt said she thinks people should let their elected officials do their jobs.
"We voted for them," Vogt said. "Let the mayor and council do their job without disrupting the meetings and stirring things up with your childish hateful Martin Chronicles and your insubordination."
Martin said he doesn't believe another meeting to discuss the topic will take place in the near future.
9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas contributed to this report.
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