In a decision that pitted rising resistance to taxes against rising concern over crime, the City Council in the fast-growing exurb of Elko New Market has narrowly voted to get rid of its tiny police department and look to Scott County sheriff's deputies for protection.
A sports bar owner elected to the council by a wide margin in November on a tax-cutting platform led the charge.
City officials produced figures this past winter indicating that, hour for hour, sheriff's deputies would be more expensive, not less. The only way to really save money, they argued, was by cutting hours of protection at a time when crime is rising.
But newly elected Council Member Bob Hanna replied that it wasn't just that: In bulking up its police department, he argued, the city also was sliding toward a campaign for a nice new police building, the kind that has cost neighboring towns many millions of dollars.
On Thursday night the council voted 3-2 to abolish the department and its roughly three full-time-equivalent positions.
The dispute caused a lot of hard feelings in town, and neither side was returning phone calls on Friday. But some weeks ago, City Administrator Tom Terry said the city enjoyed a tax rate well below those of comparably situated Scott County cities.
"We're fiscally conservative. We're always cautious about adding services that cost, because those costs tend to remain regardless of what revenues do,'' he said. "We run relatively lean."