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Can't Have It All

Editorial for Nov. 17, 2011

Representatives of the cities of Bingen and White Salmon have to stop meeting the way they did Nov. 7 to discuss White Salmon's proposed 2012 budget. The meeting of the Joint Police Committee failed to produce agreement on how much each city will pay for law enforcement next year because Bingen insists White Salmon needs to trim its budget to help each city reduce its police services costs, but Bingen's in particular.

Now that Bingen has informed White Salmon it wants to return to the old formula for determining cost assessments -- a formula by which police expenditures, including indirect costs like administrative overhead and vehicle maintenance, are allocated according to each city's assessed valuation. Next year, Bingen will make quarterly payments to White Salmon amounting to 25.5 percent of budgeted police costs, which, with indirect costs included, are estimated at $900,000. This year, Bingen has agreed to pay $279,000 total for police services, or 32 percent of the police budget adopted by White Salmon at the end of 2010. White Salmon, however, recently adopted budget amendments that implemented additional police expenditures resulting mostly from a new collective bargaining agreement with line officers. White Salmon wanted Bingen to pay an additional $19,000 that would have met Bingen's 32 percent obligation, per an addendum to the police services contract that controls intercity relations until the end of 2014. Instead, the Bingen City Council has said it will pay what it had budgeted for 2011, or 29.7 percent.

The White Salmon leadership's general attitude, at this point, is one of frustration -- with the police contract, with Bingen's nitpicking of its budget, with Bingen's apparent lack of good faith in fulfilling its obligations under the interlocal agreement. The sticking point seems to be that police contract. If it's that unworkable, mutually agree to rescind it and replace it with an agreement that allows each city to meet its public safety policy: for White Salmon, that's 24/7 coverage; for Bingen, it's basically what the city can afford. And let's be clear: The police department may be called Bingen-White Salmon, but the department is first and foremost White Salmon's and, in the final issue, the buck stops in White Salmon. SB

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