If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s receiving feedback from stories written about Ferrelview.
We’ve certainly succeeded in reaching a small, but important, part of readership in the past month by delving into the happenings of this mostly nondescript village. The feedback? Well, the stories have generated praise, complaints, suggestions for corrections and plenty of additional rumors for us to mull over.
In all honesty, the citizens appear divided on what to do about police chief Daniel Clayton and the reports of excessive ticket writing, intimidation and harassment. The same can probably be said for the perception of Ferrelview’s board of trustees.
In some ways, this creates the irony of the situation.
Some sources have said recent stories make the town look bad and cast an unfair light on what’s going on, that stories of excessive revenues from traffic violations only further an unfair stereotype for a village long known as a speed trap. Others have taken delight in the findings but then bristle a bit when the possible ramifications become a little more clear and seem undesirable.
I just want to present the facts and let you decide for yourself.
The point of our articles, and specifically one last week that drew a lot of attention, isn’t to cast a specific light. Did we draw a little attention for the headline last week claiming Ferrelview’s ticket revenue violated state statute? Absolutely — and that’s the point.
However, the village has been asked for comment on numerous, numerous occasions, and we’ve received zero response. Zero.
Board chairperson Steve Carr could end a lot of questions by simply picking up the phone or getting on the computer and sending a quick email. I still encourage him to do so. We’d be glad to talk at his convenience.
Because the village could simply acknowledge the change in the law Senate Bill 5 brings. Carr could tell us the city plans to remit the excess revenue collected back to the state to stay in compliance.
I would assume that’s the plan, given the board has truly stayed on top of legislation and understands the change.
However, the bigger part of the conversation that goes beyond Ferrelview centers around the role of small municipal police departments. Clearly, Mack’s Creek Law and now Senate Bill 5 have aimed to keep municipalities in compliance of not funding services through excessive fines from traffic violations.
However, the punishment mechanisms have not been in place to hold anyone accountable.
Our research shows that municipalities have handled the crackdown in one of two ways: simply paying back the excess to the state, which then goes to the local school district, or disbanding the police force. The second option happens when there isn’t enough other revenue to justify the continued expense of manpower for the police department.
That brings you back to Ferrelview.
No one is claiming that the village pays top dollar for police staffing. History seems to show that the police chief in Ferrelview will either be a young cop looking to gain experience and move on or an older retiree looking to remain active.
There’s still cost there, and with little sales tax and property tax to support services, traffic fines do help fund the department. Is it a money making venture for the village? I don’t think so.
But this becomes the question. Ferrelview can’t keep all the revenue from the tickets Clayton has written during the past year or so. The village will either have to remit the excess or be in violation of state law, which pending ongoing litigation, could result in loss of jurisdiction for its municipal court and a mandatory vote of disincorporation.
Some opponents of Clayton have been taken aback when they realize Ferrelview could lose its police force. They wonder if the Platte County Sheriff’s Office could truly handle the calls from citizens and still want to remain independent.
But you can’t have it both ways.
Even if Ferrelview remits excess revenues, there will be a loss. Research shows the village has operated with revenues above 20 percent in the past, and that money over 20 percent appears gone. That should be a hit to the budget.
A new planned apartment complex and the accompanying property tax could help offset the problem. Maybe it’s as simple as that, but change is coming to Ferrelview if Senate Bill 5 is upheld, and most seem to think it will be.
Does that mean the end of the police department or a reduction of tickets written? Definitely not. The board has pledged its support for Clayton.
Ferrelview could at least apply some clarity to the situation and provide some answers. I’m hopeful the board has a plan but just hasn’t provided us with any insight into what that looks like.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.