The end of summer finds the City of Shady Cove in a type of dual drought. Not only are many wells running dry, but the Police Department is nearly down to its last metaphorical trickle as well. It is logical then, that the two main topics of Thursday’s City Council study session and subsequent meeting were cops and drops.
In the matter of law enforcement, the council is currently considering two options: 1. re-build the existing Police Department 2. hire personnel from the Sheriff’s Department on a contract basis.
The main conundrum: with the city’s current financial situation – neither option will provide 24/7 law enforcement coverage for the city. Such coverage would require 5.68 officers (regardless of uniform color) and monies for that level of staffing are simply not available.
The secondary conundrum: whichever way the city goes, it will take months (at best) to attain “full” staff (within the budget) of either enforcement agency.
Jackson County Undersheriff, Rod Countryman gave an overview of a contract operation during the study session. This type of contract exists within the state of Oregon, but has not been tried in our area. The entire presentation and subsequent Q & A period – wherein council members, citizens and Sgt. Denney participated lasted over an hour.
With the amount of monies in the budget, the city could contract out either two deputies and one Community Service Officer (uniform: yes, gun: no – does scene investigation, solves domestic issues, enforces codes, etc) or three deputies. Additionally, available patrol cars would drive through the city as allowed.
Regarding two deputies and one CSO: a year’s worth of SCPD calls were researched in coming to this suggestion. The vast majority of calls placed are “low level” calls – example: neighbor parked in caller’s driveway, noise complaint, weed abatement issue, etc. On the police side the monies could return the department to its previous staffing level.
If the city contracts with the Sheriff, current officers would be hired by that department, reserve officers would not be.
Advantages to contracting: any potential litigation brought against law enforcement would fall to the county and deputies potentially have a wider variety of training.
Disadvantages: at least one less active officer, potential to have different officers every three months (Deputies apply quarterly for shifts and locations – it’s possible the same Deputies would apply for Shady Cove repeatedly – it’s possible they would not) and two active officers “immediately.”
Advantages to re-building PD: at least one more active officer (currently there are two reserve officers – it was not clarified how many the budget allows for if the department is fully staffed) and consistent personnel.
Disadvantages: lawsuits would fall on the city and limited personnel for the time it would take to re-build.
No decisions were made either way; the council has a lot more research to do before either path is chosen. Several council members will research various items of concern which arose from the discussion. Mayor Holthusen will contact other cities who currently contract with their local Sheriff’s Departments. Councilor Hughes will look over the budget and consider all the costs of each option (both current and for future years). Councilor Kyle will research potential problems the Sheriff’s Department might have in enforcing municipal codes/laws.
The council received a letter from Gary Endicott, one of the chief petitioners for the dissolution of the Water District, asking the council to make a resolution in support of the speedy exodus of the district.
Per Endicott’s research the dissolution can happen one of two ways: 1. The county feels it’s in the best interest of the citizens and upon receiving the fact finding, dissolves the district. 2. The county calls for the city to hold an election to dissolve the district.
With the next available election March ’10, Endicott would like the council’s support for “option 1” formally voiced to the county.
Initially the Mayor wanted to table the matter until the next meeting. Though details were not presented, he advised that an “administrative dissolution” may not be possible – period. He was not at liberty to provide further information.
After some discussion the council decided to go ahead with the resolution as it merely stated they were in full support of a speedy dissolution (vs. waiting for an election). Whatever other possible future dramatic plot twist to this ongoing saga aside, they wanted to show the citizens their support. Moreover practically the same resolution was passed by previous council.
They moved to approve a resolution to the County Commissioner to support dissolution as soon as possible. It passed 5/0. The city administrator will re-work the old resolution and submit it to the County.
On matters more pedestrian – everyone agreed the new sidewalk in front of City Hall looks great and the crosswalk by the school has been re-painted.
The council received new estimates for the landscaping which will accompany the sidewalk, the deletion of the “dry creek” didn’t take much off the estimates, but the council moved to award the contract to High Tech Landscaping. A special budget meeting will need to be called before any work can actually be done.
With lots of discussion done, lots of research yet to do and at least a couple of decisions made the council adjourned to dampen their parched throats with water from the nifty Smokey Bear water bottles the Fire Chief had graciously donated to one and all.
By Christy Pitto
Of the Independent