By Ashley Yarchin
St. Charles County, MO (KSDK) - It was one of the closest local races of Election Day. By percentages, it was a 50-50 split. But in the end voters in St. Charles County chose to create a police department that will take over law enforcement in unincorporated areas from the elected sheriff. Here's how it'll work.
While Sheriff Tom Neer was actually surprised to see the proposal pass, even if only by 1,154 votes, he was happy to explain the changes he had pressed for some time.
Since the new police agency won't begin operations until January 1, 2015, the next two years will be spent by a team of about eight-to-10 people, picked by the sheriff, going over the smoothest way to transition. The elected sheriff in the two years would remain in charge only of court security, transporting prisoners and process serving.
Meanwhile, most of the current 223 sheriff's deputies and civilian employees would move over to the new police department, which will be in the same building where they currently work. The only difference is that the group will then be overseen by a chief appointed by the county executive from applicants meeting professional qualifications spelled out in the proposal.
The thing is, though, there are still concerns from the public.
"We don't know what the costs are going to be," explained Rod Zerr, a concerned St. Charles County resident. "They could be astronomical in transitioning over with new uniforms, re-lettering patrol cars, replacing all of the stationary and all of the forms there. It could be a very costly venture, and I think it could ultimately raise our taxes."
"Any costs assessed with the changing of uniforms, badges, decaling or anything like that will be absorbed by our drug enforcement fund and seizing assets from drug dealers, so no additional costs to taxpayers at all." responded Sheriff Neer.