The Bingen-White Salmon Police Department (BWSPD) is back to offering around the clock police patrols, and a payment from the city of Bingen made all the difference.
For a short time -- with White Salmon's budget troubles forcing the city to cut all overtime hours -- the Police Department found itself unable to provide 24-7 coverage with its current staff of four officers. That meant that for certain unspecified periods of time each week, there was no officer on patrol in the community.
"It wasn't something we wanted to do, but were put in the position of having no choice," said BWSPD Sgt. Jim Andring. "We were off 24-7 for about nine days. We'd start at about 7 a.m. and cover until 3 in the morning."
That constraint was eased, however, after the White Salmon City Council approved a revised law enforcement services contract with the city of Bingen on Nov. 17. Since 2000, Bingen has paid White Salmon to provide law enforcement services within Bingen, and the amended agreement boosted the amount Bingen provides to White Salmon from 23 percent to 32 percent.
That translates to about $80,000 additional to White Salmon for the year 2011. Since the increased payments to the Police Department were made retroactive to September 2010, White Salmon was given $21,000 for the final three months of 2010. That additional funding was enough to cover sufficient overtime hours for the police to again provide full-time patrols.
"After accepting the additional money from Bingen, our city administrator (Pat Munyan) told the Police Department to go back to 24-7 coverage," explained White Salmon Mayor David Poucher. "Some overtime needs to be paid out."
"That seems to be what did it," commented Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes. "I'm really happy we're back to 24-7 coverage."
Poucher said he had called Barnes to let her know the around the clock coverage was back on. Barnes had been visibly angry at the Nov. 16 meeting on the Bingen City Council after finding out the police had not been providing 24-7 coverage and no one had informed her that was the case.
Poucher said the city simply did not have enough in its budget at that time to provide full coverage, even though the interlocal agreement between the two cities requires around the clock policing.
"Now that we have the increased revenue, we're honoring the contract," Poucher said on Monday.
Poucher was pleased that the enhanced revenue allowed the Police Department to provide full coverage.
"I really think that's good news," Poucher said. "It's good to take a step forward instead of backward all the time."
Sgt. Andring said it was a big relief to the officers as well as to the public to know there would be a constant police presence in the community.
"We'll be able to provide double coverage on weekend nights," Andring explained.
Barnes said she believed the $21,000 Bingen provided would be more than enough to cover police overtime costs for the rest of the year, and was glad to put that controversy in the past.
She also pointed out that the city of White Salmon is advertising and testing for a police chief as well as a new police officer. With the hiring of the two new officers expected within the first month or two of 2011, city officials are hopeful the additional staff will reduce the need for overtime.
"Hopefully we can move forward and build on our Police Department," Barnes said.