BIG BEND — On Thursday, the Village Board voted to eliminate the police department in favor of using Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department with the village of Vernon for police services. A press release was issued by Big Bend on Monday.
“The contract calls for shared policing by two full-time dedicated deputy positions between Big Bend and Vernon. The shared services contract also brings the backing of the sheriff’s office resources for any incidents requiring specialty enforcement on a 24/7 basis,” the release said.
The new contract will provide:
■ 5 days per week – 1st Shift coverage – 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
■ 7 days per week – 2nd Shift coverage – 3 p.m. – 11 p.m. (this is the same coverage Big Bend provides currently) The sheriff’s department will move its southeast district office into the Big Bend police facility. There will be up to two additional full-time deputies providing the 24/7 coverage to the surrounding community in addition to the contract deputies on all three shifts.
“In comparison, the current proposed Big Bend police 2024 contract is $500,000.00 per year. The police Chief’s contract, alone, is 1/4 of that budget with a salary of $100,000.00 plus benefits. Under the newly approved sheriff’s contract, the Big Bend share is $238,212.66 a year. This is a savings of over $250,000.00 per year for Big Bend. Over the 5year period of this contract, the savings will be over $1,225,000.00 with enhanced police coverage,” the release said.
Village Trustee Josh Grover told The Freeman people were surprised over the topic and didn’t see it coming.
“We got the agenda on Wednesday. It mentioned the closed session and it just said police services. During the meeting it came out that it had to do with accepting a contract using
See BIG BEND, PAGE 8A
On Thursday, the Big Bend Village Board voted to eliminate the village’s police department in favor of using the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department with the village of Vernon for police services.
Waukesha County Sheriff instead of using our own police force and disbanding our police force and liquidating all of our equipment,” Grover said.
Grover and Trustee Traci Lewandowski both opposed the contract.
“It’s a mistake. You just can’t cut your way in to fixing any debt problems in the village when it comes down to it,” Grover said.
The village having its own police force is a good thing to have, according to Grover.
“Once you get rid of it like this there is no going back. Once those police officers are gone and you liquidate all the equipment it’s going to cost you three times the amount probably to come back from that,” he said.
The trustee added the deal is not benefiting the village, in his opinion.
“I believe we are going to have less services. Even though they tried to convince me we will have the same service,” Grover said.
The contract, once finalized, would take effect most likely on Jan. 1.
The village is known for is small-town feel. Its village hall, library, police department, fire department and municipal court are all housed in the same building.
Grover said the residents know all of the three full-time and nine part-time police officers and chief on the force.
“A lot of residents are not happy about this. It’s personal. People wave at the police when they go by. Just to get rid of the police department to save a few dollars — It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Residents speak out
Big Bend resident and former Trustee Bob Heinemann was the only resident at Thursday’s meeting. During the closed session he waited outside and said no one knew what the police services item was about.
“That is not the way things are supposed to run. Just go right into closed session,” Heinemann said.
On the village’s YouTube channel there are three different recordings of the meeting titled planning video 9/7/23, village board meeting 9/7/23 and planning video 9/7/23. In 2:58 of the planning video, the board goes into open session and votes on police services. Heinemann reacts by telling the board “This is a bull(expletive) way to do business. You should be ashamed of yourself as the attorney. Because no one knows about this. I am the only guy here,” Heinemann said on the video of the meeting.
Heinemann told The Freeman if people would have known that about the topic of the meeting the room would have been packed.
“I’m sure at the next Village Board meeting there will be a ton of people, I hope,” he said.
Heinemann said as far as he knows there is no one talking who is in favor of this and he is encouraging people to write to the board and speak out against it.
“I had an issue a few years ago where I passed out at McDonald’s. The first person I saw was the chief of police. The cops are the first responders. They are there first. Are you going to get that kind of service with the county when they are spread out, when they are spread thin?” he said.
Resident Debbie Clark and her husband, Bill, have lived in Big Bend for 38 years and raised their three children there.
“We moved here because it was a small village with a police force to protect us and our children as well as a fire department. We vote at every election big and small, so our choices are heard. We knew our police chief then and now as well as they are patrolling and driving through our neighborhoods,” Debbie Clark said.
Clark said “We elected board members per their campaign ideas and values. Jeff Goodman actually has a flyer from that time saying he would always back our police and fire departments, and as village president he did the opposite. On top of that he and four of the other members made a decision behind closed doors and not allowing any of the notes available.”
Debbie added “this is a lack of honesty and transparency and speaks volumes about their character.”
Her husband said he feels sorry for the young families that moved here recently.
“Getting rid of the local police force is a terrible idea,” Bill Clark said.
Resident Sarah Tennessen wants to know who else actually “accepts this nonsense. Obviously, I’m not for it — at all.”
The Freeman contacted the Sheriff’s Department, and all members of the Village Board on Friday but they had not responded as of Monday afternoon.