The Morristown City Council voted 4-1 Monday night to contract with the Rice County Sheriff's Office for the next two years to provide their police protection.

I am horrible at estimating crowds, but I can tell you the meeting was moved from the council chambers to the community center due to the large crowd. My guess would be about 250 to 300 people were in attendance. Many stood in back of the room, choosing not to sit where chairs had been provided.

The council acknowledged the petition from Morristown residents with 329 signatures requesting the council not enter into the contract because they wanted to keep their own police department. City Attorney Mark Rahrick advised the council the petition was not legally binding so they could vote however they felt was best for Morristown.

Mayor Kurt Wolf laid down some rules before citizen comments were taken that only two people would be able to speak in opposition and two people in favor of the contract.

Morristown resident Dale Dulas was upset that only two people would be allowed to speak in opposition when he said a majority of the audience was opposed to the change.

Dulas said the council was, "censuring the citizens of Morristown here to voice their opinion on your actions and I just think that's a pretty sneaky way of getting out of hearing what the people have to say about it."

A show of hands of residents in favor of keeping their police department was requested and a clear majority did raise their hands.

Petition organizer Dave Duncan talked about the signatures on the petition. The "329 signatures represent nearly 70 percent of voters for mayor and city council in the 2016 election. While we do not doubt the Sheriff's Department abilities and professionalism, our current remaining officer, Chris Langer, has become an integral part of our community. He has served both this town and country with respect and honor. We want him to remain in his role and while it's been stated he could apply to the county, that continued role is not guaranteed."

Duncan added, "The Rice County Commissioners made it abundantly clear they were allowing the contract with the Sheriff's Department to pass, but the final decision to approve or reverse it fall solely on you."

Councilman Scott Allen moved to table the matter for more study and his motion died for the lack of a second. Councilman Seth Prescher then moved to approve the contract and the motion was seconded by Councilwoman Lisa Karsten.

The vote was 4-1 in favor of the contract with Allen casting the lone dissenting vote.

The Morristown squad car title was signed over to Rice County and the contract calls for the Sheriff's Department to give the city a $20,000 allowance for the car that is subtracted from the first year of the contract.

Sheriff Troy Dunn told KDHL after the meeting his department would be replacing the vehicle and said the Morristown Historical Society would be receiving the Morristown police officer patches and badges to keep as they see fit.

Rice County Sheriff's Department coverage of Morristown begins Tuesday, May 2.

After the meeting, Morristown Mayor Kurt Wolf signed the historic contract on behalf of the city. The contract is historic because nobody can recall a time in the city's history when the community did not have its own police department.

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