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Ws Bats Police Contract Issue Back To Bingen

To be addressed at Oct. 5 meeting

The ball is now back in Bingen's court.

In early September, in response to serious budget constraints facing the city of White Salmon, Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes and the Bingen City Council agreed to boost the amount of money Bingen pays to White Salmon to maintain the joint Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

In exchange for boosting the level of support from 23 percent of the department's costs to 32 percent -- which would provide White Salmon with an additional $6,000 per month -- Bingen requested that a police chief and one new police officer be hired, and that Bingen would be given more supervisory authority and an equal say in hiring and firing decisions of Police Department staff.

But following a special meeting of the White Salmon City Council on Sept. 20, the city of White Salmon declined Bingen's deal and presented Bingen with a counterproposal.

In a Sept. 21 letter, White Salmon City Administrator Pat Munyan thanked Bingen for its "good faith offer to increase the police contract percentage to 32 percent," but requested that Bingen agree to pay 33 percent rather than 32 percent.

"The White Salmon City Council believes that 33 percent is the true average of impact calls taken by the Police Department to deal with issues in Bingen," Munyan wrote.

Munyan further requested that the 33 percent payment be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010.

As for Bingen's request for new hires "within 30 days after receiving the (Civil Service) list," White Salmon proposed different language related to that request.

"White Salmon City Council would like to change the verbiage to read as follows: White Salmon's mayor will fill one vacant officer's position as soon as possible and in accordance with all applicable requirements, laws, and policies," the letter read.

Similarly, White Salmon requested nearly identical language for the hiring of a new police chief, which Bingen had also requested within 30 days of receiving a Civil Service list of qualified candidates: "White Salmon's mayor will fill the vacant chief of police position as soon as possible and in accordance with all applicable requirements, laws, and policies."

Further, the White Salmon City Council rejected Bingen's request to share supervisory control of the Police Department and to equally participate in hiring and firing decisions.

"The White Salmon City Council understands your request but cannot consider any such proposal," Munyan wrote. "This proposal would create a conflicting situation between both cities and the employee. However, the city of White Salmon will consider any such comments and advice offered by the city of Bingen's mayor and City Council in good faith."

At the Sept. 21 meeting of the Bingen City Council, after receiving the letter from White Salmon, Bingen's council members tabled a decision on a reply.

"We received it late Tuesday. The council members discussed it, but weren't very receptive to it," said Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes. "The council members felt they had listened to White Salmon's concerns and proposed something beneficial to both parties, and felt that what came back was pretty much a slap in the face."

"The council hasn't taken a position on it yet," explained Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending. "We received it and are reviewing it. At this point, there's really no movement from White Salmon. It's not much, if any, change from the original letter from Mayor Poucher."

Brending was referring to an Aug. 30 letter from White Salmon Mayor David Poucher, in which, under the direction of the White Salmon City Council, he requested that Bingen boost the amount of its payment for the Police Department to 33 percent retroactive to Jan. 1.

Barnes added that having a couple weeks to think about it might be helpful all the way around.

"I personally think going way back to Jan. 1 is not reasonable. But having two weeks to reflect on that is probably a good thing," Barnes explained. "That time may help everyone understand where everyone is coming from. We'll see what happens at the next council meeting. Hopefully we can get somewhere and find some common ground."

"I think the hardest part with the Bingen proposal is that you can't have two bosses. You can't have a police chief with one boss in White Salmon and one in Bingen," said Poucher. "It just doesn't work that way."

Poucher said he was not ready to make any further comment about the counterproposal.

"We'll just wait and see how Bingen responds," Poucher said.

Barnes also pointed out that there was some confusion over what the meaning of the new wording from White Salmon convening the hiring of a new officer and a police chief.

Barnes noted that there was no mention of a Civil Service list in White Salmon's counterproposal.

"We're not sure what it means," Barnes said.

Currently, the joint Police Department has only four officers, a staffing level that makes it difficult to maintain police coverage around the clock.

Bingen's council will address the issue during the council's 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Bingen City Hall.

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