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Council Delays Vote On Amending Police Deal

At least for now

By JESSE BURKHARDT

The Enterprise

No deal -- at least for now. On the evening of Sept. 15, the White Salmon City Council decided to table discussion of a proposal from Bingen regarding altering the contract that created the joint Bingen/White Salmon Police Department.

The topic will be back on the council's regular agenda at its first meeting in October.

In a Sept. 8 letter to the city of White Salmon, Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes, with the unanimous backing of the Bingen City Council, offered to pay White Salmon a higher percentage of the costs the two cities pay for the Police Department.

White Salmon is expected to make a counter-proposal to Bingen's offer; details of that proposal were unclear as of press time on Tuesday.

Bingen offered to boost its contribution level from 23 percent to 32 percent. The 32 percent was based on the fact that roughly 32-34 percent of the calls the Police Department gets originate within the city of Bingen.

By going to 32 percent, Bingen's payment to the city of White Salmon would increase by approximately $6,000 per month.

Before boosting its payment to that level, however, Bingen asked that several conditions be met, including hiring a new police officer and a police chief and giving the city of Bingen equal responsibility in decisions regarding hiring and retaining Police Department staff.

Bingen officials also requested that Bingen's mayor be given supervisory authority of the activities of the Police Department while operating in Bingen. In addition, Bingen proposes that the two mayors build and approve a Police Department budget before presenting it to the respective city councils.

The changes were offered as a possible amendment to the current inter-local agreement overseeing the Police Department.

Since 2000, the city of Bingen has contracted with the city of White Salmon for its police coverage. The contract, which was renewed in 2008 and is in effect until 2014, calls for White Salmon to provide a total of eight police officers and police coverage around the clock, seven days a week.

Currently, the police force includes just four officers, making it difficult to sustain 24/7 coverage.

White Salmon council member Anthony Coulter said the additional revenue would be helpful given the ongoing budget crunch the city is facing, but he questioned if hiring two more individuals might cost the city even more than the Bingen increase.

"We like, overall, the idea of getting more money," Coulter said. "But if we end up hiring right away, could that not put us further behind?"

White Salmon Mayor David Poucher added that he had one primary concern.

"Having two supervisors for a police chief is an issue, but I think that could be worked out," Poucher said. "Whenever you have two bosses, it could be a problem."

Mayor Barnes attended the White Salmon council meeting and pointed out that the proposed new officer and police chief would not be on the payroll for several months, so the hiring would not impact the city's 2010 budget.

"They would not be hired immediately," Barnes explained. "It might take four or six months."

Pointing out that there was a lot to consider, White Salmon City Council member Bob Landgren suggested that a decision on whether to approve Bingen's proposed amendment to the police contract be tabled until the next meeting.

The move to table the measure was approved with a 5-0 vote.

The issue will next be discussed at the City Council's regular meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6. That meeting, at the White Salmon Fire Hall, starts at 6 p.m.

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