ROME CITY — Rome City’s Town Marshal is proposing a $4 per hour hike in pay for the town’s part-time officers as a way to incentivize them to take on more shifts, although the town council wants some time to think it over.

At last month’s town council meeting, Marshal Jim Sheffield proposed a boosted rate for part-time officers as a way to try to boost coverage of weekend and holiday shifts, when the full-time officers are not typically on duty. If Rome City doesn’t have an officer on, the town is covered by the Noble County Sheriff’s Department officers if there is a problem.

Right now, Rome City pays $15-$17 per hour, but many officers are passing on shifts either to work other jobs or take special police details that pay more, sometimes up to $30 per hour or more.

After broaching the issue, the town council asked Sheffield to check with other local departments as to what they pay their part-timers, to try to find a comparable rate. On Monday, the marshal came back with some results.

In Ligonier, the city pays $14.65 on the low end, but increasing to $18.55 for an officer who has graduated the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. In Albion, the range is $15.25-$17.90, while Avilla pays either $23 or $24 per hour for part-time help, Sheffield reported.

Although two of the communities are comparable, Sheffield said there is one notable difference.

“All the agencies that we talked to, they had more than three full-time employees,” he said. “They don’t rely as heavily on the coverage provided by our own guys as we do with our part-time people.”

Sheffield suggested the $4 premium pay would boost the pay to be comparable with other departments and hopefully incentivize the part-timers to take on more work.

If the pay boost were approved and it doesn’t lead to more hours, then Sheffield said it might be time to start sitting down with the part-timers and trying to decide whether their heart is in it, or whether Rome City needs to move on.

That’s something the town is hesitant to do mainly because of the cost. Any officer who is receiving pay for police duties needs to graduate from the state academy within a year of employment. That training costs thousands of dollars, which is a major expense for a small community.

While discussing part-timers, though, Sheffield also noted the town gets served well by its unpaid reserve officers. That was evident this past weekend at Chautauqua Days, when the reserves were out to help run traffic control at the parade and maintain security during the festivities.

“Every one of our unpaid reserves showed up to help out and we had one part-time guy show up. The others had scheduled conflicts,” Sheffield said. “These (part-timers) are guys I want to keep and any other department around here would take any one of them in a heartbeat.”

Town Council President Gary Furlow thanked Sheffield for getting the numbers the board requested last month, but said the three-member council would like to digest the numbers for a month before making a decision.

“I think it’s going to take more for me than at least a day to wrestle with those numbers a little bit,” Furlow said.

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