The discussion on the costs for public safety seemed to be over, but in the first Cashmere City Council meeting of the 2013, the problem of the public safety contract was brought back up.
Last week, David Sherman, city of Cashmere representative, spoke with the Cashmere City Council and city staff about the current public safety costs and options to reduce costs. City council members from Entiat, Chelan, and Leavenworth attended the study session to hear Sherman's thoughts on public safety and his suggestions for change.
Last year, the cities of Cashmere and Leavenworth partnered together to hire consultant Tom Davis to conduct a study to figure out the costs for the two cities having their own police department. After Davis figured out the costs, the two cities realized only one town could have the police department and the other city would be back in the same boat by having to contract with an agency for public safety.
The discussion of sharing a police department for the two cities came to an end, and as the 2012 year finished up, both cities found ways to cover the public safety contract cost increase.
Sherman, who is a volunteer, came to the Cashmere City Council and suggested other possible options for small incorporated towns in Chelan County to handle public safety. In the current law enforcement contract the city of Cashmere has with the Chelan County Sheriff's Office, there is language about the city have a representative to meet with t he sheriff on a monthly basis. Sherman has volunteered his time to take on this role.
"We all know the cost of that contract is a lot larger than what some cities are comfortable with. On top of that contract there are also other fees tacked on such as Rivercom and jail fees. I have some suggestions about this contract and possibly ways to change public safety," said Sherman who has 10 years of law enforcement experience.
Sherman said his first concern with the contract is the price. He said the contract can be over $500,000 when considering the extra costs with jail fees etc. Last year, he went to the Sheriff's Office and asked about decreasing services to get a lower cost. Sherman said the answer was no, either Cashmere takes the contract or they don't.
Sherman told the attending council members from Cashmere, Leavenworth, Chelan and Entiat to think of public safety options on a pendulum. On one side, there is the current contract and on the other there is no contract at all. Sherman suggested taking a look at everything in between the two extremes.
By law, the Chelan County Sheriff's Office is responsible for the county as a whole. When calls are made, the Sheriff is to respond to whichever he deems of higher importance. Manson is an unincorporated city so they don't pay anything extra to the Sheriff's Office outside of their county taxes. In August 2012, Manson had 139 responses from the Sheriff's Office and Cashmere only had 98.
"Put that in perspective," Sherman said. "You have an area like Manson with no police contract getting 139 responses and then you have Cashmere who pays over $500,000 and got 98 responses. Are you getting what you paid for?"
Cashmere Councilman Jim Fletcher suggested because of Cashmere's contract there is more of a police presence in Cashmere which could lead to less of a need for police responses.
"Is the real measure of success fewer calls because there is a deterrent going on which means less crime?" Fletcher asked.
Sherman said to look at cities like Seattle which have a large amount of police officers but still have a lot of crime.
The question of Leavenworth and Cashmere sharing a police department was raised again. During Davis' study he calculated for the two cities to share a department it would cost $1.2 million for a 10 person department. Sherman said during Davis' study he used costs for a west side department. He said by adjusting a few salaries to what it costs to run a department on the east side of Washington he could cut off around $200,000 of the cost.
Sherman reminded the council partnering with Leavenworth would mean one of the cities would be in the same boat they are in now by having to contract with an agency.
"I started to think about Cashmere. Are we sure the city of Cashmere wants to pay the price we are paying for police services? Could we downsize and have the city of Cashmere have a smaller police department?" Sherman asked. "The way this works in my mind is have the mayor hire a police chief and then have an officer working for the police chief."
Instead of having a full blown police department in Cashmere, Sherman suggested Cashmere could have a full time police chief, one or two officers, and then hire contract officers when needed.
Sherman said what a lot of other cities don't understand is they don't need to have a K9 unit or a Swat team etc. A city can have the basics and when they need backup or something they don't have, they can borrow.
"You pay taxes so you are already paying for services from the Sheriff's Office and State Patrol. You need a SWAT team, call the Sheriff's Office. State patrol is already doing traffic so you wouldn't have to do that. We can borrow from State Patrol or from the county," Sherman said.
Bill Haven, with the city of Entiat, asked if the city would have to become unincorporated to get those services from State Patrol and the Sheriff's Office. Sherman informed him those services are paid through State and County taxes.
"I am not saying we go forward with a one cop town. I am asking if you want to explore having a police department that partners with other entities in our area," Sherman said.
The city council voted to have Sherman proceed to look into costs for options for public safety in Cashmere.
Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.