The city of White Salmon apparently won't be contracting with the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office for police services any time soon.
At the Sept. 1 meeting of the White Salmon City Council, the councilors voted unanimously to reject a proposal from Sheriff Rick McComas.
At the beginning of the council session, White Salmon Mayor David Poucher explained that he, along with Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes, had met with Sheriff McComas about potentially contracting with KCSO.
"We asked if he could give us a proposal for what it would cost for services," Poucher explained.
The cities of Bingen and White Salmon have been scrambling to figure out how to maintain effective police coverage following the resignation of longtime Police Chief Bruce Brending in August.
With Brending's departure, the Police Department has only four officers and a police clerk.
In an "administrative services" proposal dated Aug. 18, McComas outlined a proposal that called for KCSO to provide the following services for the cities of White Salmon and Bingen:
Coordinating law enforcement needs and goals as identified and prioritized by the mayors of the communities (including preparation and labor contract recommendations);
Attendance and reports to the city councils, as requested by the mayors;
General oversight of all daily activities of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department;
Supervising of sergeant to provide direction and guidance for line personnel;
Planning and implementation of best practices to assure professional service to the Bingen and White Salmon citizens and including most efficient response procedures;
Review and approval of the patrol scheduling as proposed by sergeant (24-hour coverage and possible double coverage may not be feasible with the limited number of personnel, without utilizing overtime options);
Receive and resolve citizen complaints, violations of policies and procedures and recommend appropriate action as may be necessary; and
Reasonable and limited community appearance by sheriff's administrative staff.
The KCSO plan called for the cities of White Salmon and Bingen to pay $75 per hour for the service, which would be offered on a half-time basis -- 20 hours per week. The annual cost of half-time service was pegged at $78,000 per year.
The dollar figure appeared to be too much for White Salmon's City Council members to want to entertain.
"This is very exorbitant, and I would not support it," said council member Bob Landgren.
Landgren then made a motion to reject the KCSO plan, and the council voted 4-0 not to accept the proposal.
At that point, Mayor Poucher pointed out that the four remaining police officers had proposed their own plan for handling law enforcement duties until more officers and/or a police chief can be hired.
In a three-page document outlining the duties each police employee would take responsibility for, the officers expressed their determination to remain an effective police force.
"The membership of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department believe that by working together as a team, we can maintain a reasonable level of services and maintain quality services without the involvement of contracted administrative services," read an excerpt of the proposal, dated Sept. 2. "This has benefits on many levels. We have heard your budget concerns and will control expenses by using existing resources efficiently. We, as your Police Department, believe we can pick up the entire workload until a chief is appointed and the department is expanded. We realize this may take six months or more."
White Salmon City Administrator Patrick Munyan said he believed the proposal from the officers was solid.
"I feel our officers can help with this and I think it's probably the best route, to give our officers this opportunity," Munyan said.
Police Sgt. Jim Andring noted that the current number of officers in the community represents the fewest the city has had in about 15 years.
"Everybody is stepping up and doing their jobs and a little bit more," Andring explained. "We're still here and working hard."
Andring added that coverage has been maintained, but not to the previous levels.
"Our coverage has been affected. There is only one officer on the night shift on weekdays, but we'll still be able to call people out in the event of emergencies," he said. "We'll do the best job we can with the resources we have. We're still doing our 24-hour coverage, but our officers are working 12 hours a day rather than the normal 10-hour shifts."
That still leaves open the question of what the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department will do now that it is without a police chief.
The city's attorney, Ken Woodrich, pointed out that White Salmon ordinances require that the city have a police chief.
"Are you going to hire an interim chief?" Woodrich asked of Mayor Poucher.
"I was not going to," Poucher responded. "I was planning to leave that role to Sgt. Andring."
Woodrich said he would have to research the language in the city's ordinances regarding the police chief, and would report back to Mayor Poucher soon.
Andring pointed out that he hopes the local police force will be up to six full-time officers by next June.
"We're in search of lateral entries," Andring said. "We'd be glad to hear from the public as to where we could go to get lateral entries. Cities all around the state are hurting, and officers around the state have been laid off because of budget issues."