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Joint police plan could help all

We believe leaders in Aubrey, Krugerville and Cross Roads are on the right track by discussing a joint police department and municipal court.

The idea of consolidating services makes sense for smaller municipalities that may see some sizeable development in the near future. Officials say plans for commercial and residential developments along U.S. highways 377 and 380 in the next couple of years are providing the impetus for their discussions.

Cross Roads Mayor Steve Smith and the Town Council were the last to agree to enter the negotiations. Smith said he wanted the council and residents to discuss the pros and cons of having a joint police department.

The consolidation was just one of a few options the town considered, and Smith said his biggest concern was determining whether or not it was worth it for the town to increase its annual budget for a joint department. Smith said the consolidation is only worthwhile if it makes “financial sense.”

According to a proposed budget outline, the three municipalities would split the cost of operations. Aubrey and Krugerville already have police budgets and would simply adjust their budgets. Aubrey spends about $400,000 for its police department, and Krugerville spends about $157,000.

Cross Roads will need to create a new expense if the consolidation is approved. The Denton County Sheriff’s Office serves Cross Roads, which does not have its own police force.

Smith said the city is committing $300,000 in annual funding and an additional one-time amount of $150,000 for equipment. Aubrey and Krugerville are committing $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.

We understand Mayor Smith’s financial concerns — each city will need to study the plan carefully to determine if a consolidated police force is worth the expense, but we believe they will find the benefits outweigh the costs.

As Aubrey Police Chief Tommy Payne told us, the consolidation should benefit each city.

“To get the manpower we need to get to, a [24/7] level of services puts a burden on the budgets. But by combining, that burden is eased,” he said.

The combined police force would have at least 13 employees, including a police chief, an assistant police chief, an investigator and seven patrol officers.

Officials say the amounts that each city contributes could change over time.

“We’re the smallest and can’t match what each city is putting up right now,” Krugerville Mayor Dave Hill said. “At the end of each year, we’ll review the budgets and adjust accordingly.”

Officials said plans for a joint department are modeled after cities that have combined their forces in a similar fashion. Officials researched the Houston-area cities Bunker Hill, Hunter Creek and Piney Point, which consolidated their police forces in 1977.

Officials said the decision to enter negotiations doesn’t mean that the consolidation is a done deal, but we commend them for their advance planning and thinking “outside the box” to find a solution to a problem that many area cities will face in the next few years.

Continued growth will provide new opportunities, but it will also bring many challenges, and we believe leaders in Aubrey, Krugerville and Cross Roads are displaying admirable foresight by considering this option.

If all goes well, they should be able to reap the benefits of new development and provide necessary services without risking financial disaster.