AURORA, Mo. -- It is a tale of two cities operating as one to keep the public safe. One week ago Monday, the Marionville and Aurora Police Departments merged. However, it is only a trial.
The cities have a year to determine if this merger is a positive for both communities. If you ask Aurora Police Chief Richard Witthuhn, the departmental combination is a good thing.
"I think it's going well. I mean, last Monday was our first day. You know, obviously there will be a few issues we have to deal with, but at least from what we can tell, it's been going pretty smoothly," said Chief Witthuhn.
At the Dine 'N Dash restaurant in Aurora, the opinions fly just as fast as the food, especially when the lunchtime conversation is about the police merger.
"I think it's a good idea, myself," said owner mike Haas. "It looks like a win-win situation."
Others aren't so happy.
"They can't do their job as it is. How are they supposed to handle a bigger area and a harder bigger work load?" asked Jackie Rush as she ate lunch. "They can't even handle the small area they've got."
Witthuhn has heard all the opinions.
"Anywhere from 'it's the greatest thing they've heard of' to a lot of skepticism," Witthuhn said with a chuckle. "For the most part, we've gotten a lot of good positive comments. We'll see what happens this week."
Under the merger, the Marionville and Aurora Police Departments act as one. The goal is to bring people who live in Marionville police coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and get faster police response.
"They didn't have full time coverage, so you are still looking at 10-15 minutes from here to there if we weren't on something," said Witthuhn. "There is no reason that any place in Aurora or Marionville that we shouldn't be there within two or three minutes. We're just not that big of a city to cover."
Witthuhn admits officers took a little longer to respond to calls this past week. He points to illness, injury, and open positions. To make up for the lack of manpower, the chief posted four jobs. Two would be in the Marionville coverage area and two for Aurora coverage.
"They kind of seem like they were together pretty much anyway," said Haas.
Due to the combination, Marionville cases will have detectives, not just officers, to investigate crimes. Since the merger is not yet final, police inventory will stay separate.
Many people around the state have their eyes on this merger. The city councils for both communities will ultimately make the decision to fully combine the departments or go back to the way things were. If the cities continue operating as one, the department will get new badges, cars, and uniforms.
"Just give us a chance. It's new. If they see an issue that we are missing, just let us know, because I don't have all the answers, (Marionville) Chief (Mark) Webb doesn't have all the answers," said Witthuhn. "This is new to us, just give us a chance."