The back and forth between White Salmon and Bingen over the contract for joint police services is continuing.
On Oct. 6, even nearly an hour in an executive session wasn't enough for the White Salmon City Council to come to a final decision on a proposal from Bingen regarding the contract.
Bingen has offered to pay 32 percent of the costs to fund the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department. Currently, Bingen pays about 24 percent, but has offered, at White Salmon's request, to boost that amount substantially.
White Salmon's council members were trying to decide whether to approve the offer -- which would provide White Salmon with about $79,000 in extra revenue for 2011.
However, to get the extra funding, Bingen continues to insist that a new police chief and one more police officer be hired as soon as possible.
On Oct. 5, the Bingen City Council unanimously approved a letter to go to White Salmon Mayor David Poucher and White Salmon's council members.
"Because of White Salmon's financial situation, the city of Bingen has decided to help White Salmon and alleviate some of its costs by increasing the percentage we pay for services by 8.6 percent, i.e., to 32 percent through 2011," read an excerpt of the letter, which was dated Oct. 6. "We would like to support White Salmon as much as possible even though we have no legal obligation to do so. It is our hope that in return, White Salmon abides by its legal obligation to us and the community and provides the level of service as stated in our interlocal agreement."
The letter was signed by Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes.
The landmark original agreement between the two cities, signed in 2000, called for White Salmon to provide seven police officers and a police chief. Currently, the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department has just four officers, and no police chief.
Because the city councils of both Bingen and White Salmon approved the police services contract -- and in 2008 both cities agreed to extend the agreement until 2014 -- Bingen is under no legal obligation to provide additional revenue.
On the evening of Oct. 6, White Salmon's council members moved to table a decision on whether to accept Bingen's offer.
A further sticking point from White Salmon's point of view is Bingen's request to have more say in hiring and retaining of Police Department staff.
"Where I am on that is, you can only have one supervisor," said Poucher. "You can't have the police chief with two bosses."
Poucher said the two city attorneys are working to "get clarification on Bingen's request about having supervision."
After the meeting, Poucher said he remains optimistic that the two cities will come to a fair agreement soon.
"I think we're close; that's as much as I can say. We're not there, but close," Poucher said on Thursday.
The White Salmon City Council will again address the police contract issue at its next council meeting, on Wednesday, Oct. 20.