By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – One family’s generous donation will lead to a new park in their honor.
At the Tuesday, Nov. 21 Hobart Village Board meeting it was unanimously agreed that the Fontaine family will be honored for their donation of a K9 unit to the Hobart-Lawrence Police Department.
In December of 2015 Frank and Jan Fontaine donated all the costs for a K9 unit. For that a nearly half-acre lot on Leer Lane by Packerland Drive will now be known as Fontaine Family Park.
“I have much respect for our uniformed and un-uniformed police officers. I’m ex military myself. I’ve been in the service a long time ago. I was in Germany for two and a quarter years. At that time dogs weren’t a big thing but there were some military canines,” Frank said. “I thought we would be a safer community. We would be safer by having a K9 unit attached to this police department, and (chief) Randy (Bani) did one heck of a job going through the background and coming up with the proposal and everything.”
The K9 unit is officer Chris Tremel, the handler, and Officer Bax.
The two went through a six-week training course in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and are trained on obedience, agility, tracking, wind scenting, area searches, building searches, evidence recovery, tactical operations, handler protection and in drug detection.
“He is a very well trained dog,” Frank said. “I would not want to be the person on the bad side of him when he doesn’t want to be there.”
Frank said the donation wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his wife Jan.
“She went along with me at first mention. She never even hesitated when I walked up to her and said ‘what do you think if we bought Hobart a K9 unit?’ That’s how it turned out to be,” Frank said.
Jan said she and Frank think of Bax as a grandson. Frank even listens to the police scanner for badge no. 506 which is Tremel. Badge no. 509 is Bax but he’s not very active on the radio.
“As it turned out I get along with Bax, some people don’t, but I do,” Frank said. “Bax is our buddy; he comes out to see me occasionally. … He checks out all my counters, looks for drugs, checks out her room, comes out and lays down.”
The Fontaines donated the funds for Bax, his and Tremel’s training and accommodations, the squad, the outfitting of the squad for a K9 unit, and various systems to ensure Bax’s safety and effectiveness, as well as a bulletproof vest for the German Sheppard.
“One family came forward, made a huge donation to the community and it certainly changed the way we are able to handle calls and look for contraband,” said Randy Bani, police chief after the meeting. “One of the biggest benefits of the dog is the community outreach and the public relations that it brings forward and assists us in.”
Lt. Dan Vanlanen said Bax gives the department another dimension.
“It’s like having a second officer, he’s used all the time,” said Vanlanen, after the meeting. “He’s used for searches. We have a lot of nice homes and businesses here that have alarms and we’ll use him for alarms to make sure a building or house is secure. We also use him a lot for traffic stops and drug searches and he’s generated revenue with his sniffing abilities in finding drugs in cars and in some cases he’s found drugs that a human would not be able to find.”
In other news the Village Board approved the proposed 2018 budget as well as a $3,000 raise for Vanlanen.