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City looking into enhanced police patrols at lake

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Everyone attending a meeting on Monday evening agreed that more of a police presence is needed at Vandalia Lake.
How that can be accomplished has yet to be determined.
But there was considerable discussion on that issue during a meeting called by the Vandalia Lake Committee.
In addition to committee members, those in attendance included Mayor Rick Gottman, Vandalia Police Chief Larry Eason, Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay and several city aldermen.
Alderman Mike Hobler, chairman of the lake committee, said the issue was being discussed because “our problem, the same as it’s been in the past, is that the lake patrol is not certified where they have the power to write tickets, to detain and arrest people.
“We can only ask them to leave” when there is a problem, Hobler said.
This is a matter that needs to be addressed, he said, “because 95.8 percent of the people out there (at the lake) know that lake patrol can’t do anything to them.”
Rob Schukar, lake manager, said “We’re getting pretty well known as the place for underage drinking.
“I’ve got campers coming to me with complaints” about the activities going on at the lake, he said. “It’s something that we’d better look for an answer to."
The Fourth of July weekend, he said, was when the lake staff experienced the most problems. “We had three or four fights.”
“It’s not a constant problem, but the police can’t be out there all of the time,” Schukar said.
Both Hobler and Schukar said that when lake patrol personnel see underage drinking or some other type of criminal activity, law enforcement is notified.
“But by the time police have arrived, the people have run off,” Schukar said.
Both also said that they understand the constraints that both the city and county law enforcement agencies operate, with both having limited personnel to cover their respective areas.
Hobler said the committee recently discussed the possibility of deputizing lake patrol personnel, which would give them the authority to arrest individuals breaking the law.
But there would likely be roadblock, he learned.
Gottman and Eason told him that the contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents city officers, prohibits them from hiring part-time police officer.
When Hobler asked whether that issue could be negotiated, Gottman said, “If we open that issue, we open the entire contract.”
The committee, Hobler said, will continue to look into ways that the city could have someone who is certified in law enforcement provide patrols at the lake.
Alderman Bret Brosman asked, “Why don’t we allocate more of our police department (to patrol the lake)?”
“There isn’t enough of them,” Hobler said.
Gottman agreed with members of the committee that laws needed to be enforced at the lake, especially alcohol use by young people.
“There has to be zero tolerance with underage drinking,” the mayor said.
Schukar said that that and other types of criminal activity need to be addressed before it’s too late.
“Something’s going to happen (out there),” he said.