Cities set public safety meeting
East Carbon and Sunnyside officials scheduled a public safety board meeting for June 30 to discuss terms for city's joint police protection agreement.
The neighboring cities became at odds when East Carbon requested that Sunnyside increase the town's payment for police service by $46,000, from $32,000 to $78,000, according to figures reported at recent council meetings.
The public safety board consists of a council member from both cities, both city's mayors and East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard.
The current east county public safety interlocal agreement stipulates that "East Carbon City shall bill Sunnyside 30 percent of the cost of operating the police department. This shall be based on the projected fiscal budget divided in monthly payments. Before the last day of July in the next fiscal year adjustments shall be made to reflect the actual cost of services in the proceeding year."
The East Carbon council reports that their budget for the upcoming fiscal year will top $430,000 and has requested that Sunnside increase their payment to meet the new budget's demand.
"Our residents have been carrying the bulk of the police protection for both towns financially, said East Carbon councilmember Andy Urbanick in a telephone interview on Monday. "It's not right and we as a council feel it is time for Sunnyside to pick up their share of the price tag."
Sunnyside's governing officials see the manner in a different light.
"They say they want us to pay for 23 percent of the police budget but from the figures I have seen we are doing that," said Sunnyside councilmember Shari Madrid. "I think we are already holding up our end."
The 23 percent Madrid refers to is equal to the percent of citizens who reside in Sunnyside.
Seventy-seven percent of east county residents live within the East Carbon City limits.
According to figures provided by Madrid, Sunnyside has been paying $39,000 per year, totaling $156,000 during four years.
That sum, coupled with the $27,000 per year Carbon County kicks in for police protection, amounts to 23 percent of $1,091,896 spent by East Carbon City, minus grant funds, during the existing contract.
East Carbon and Sunnyside are currently and have historically worked under a four-year public safety contract that is due for renewal at the end of the 2008 fiscal year.
However, East Carbon officials disagree about the police protection that is to be provided with county funds.
"As I understand it, there is no money that the county contributes on their (Sunnyside's) behalf. That money is paid out by the Carbon County Commissioners for police protection on unincorporated county land," said Urbanick.
A contract obtained from the commission's secretary Sandy Lehman states that the county needs police services in the unincorporated areas surrounding the boundaries of East Carbon City and Sunnyside.
"East Carbon, through the East Carbon police, shall provide emergency police services to Carbon County in the following area: beginning at a point at the intersection of SR-123 and U.S. 6; thence easterly to the intersection of SR-124 and the Carbon-Emery County line; thence northerly to a point in Whitmore Canyon at the Whitmore Reservoir; thence westerly to the starting point," specifies the contract
According to Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich, the county earmarked the money for the provision of law enforcement coverage.
"We put that money out to pay for emergency police service in the eastern part of the county to subsidize the East Carbon Police when they had to respond before county officials could get there. That could include Columbia, Sunnyside or any unincorporated land that is close by. However, that money is in no way meant for Sunnyside to use 100 percent payment for their police protection," pointed out Milovich.
"Things have gotten more expensive for everyone," continued the commissioner. "The cost of gas has skyrocketed and 911 service has also gone up to the point where the county can no longer subsidize all the cities, bringing their 911 costs up exponentially. Those costs coupled with the fact that East Carbon has brought their officers salaries up to a reasonable level makes for a sizable increase in budget."
The county payment, however, is not the only matter of contention between the two cities.
According to Madrid's figures, East Carbon has increased the city's equipment budget from $14,203 in 2005-2006 to approximately $120,000 for the fiscal year 2008-2009.
"East Carbon City is using their equipment budget, which has escalated exponentially in recent years, toward grant payments they are receiving and I don't think it is fair for Sunnyside's residents to have to pick up that tab," said Madrid.
The dispute began when East Carbon's city attorney, Jeremiah Humes, sent a letter to Sunnyside Mayor Bruce Andrews requesting the new agreement between the towns along with a 4 percent yearly increase.
"That letter was the first correspondence we got concerning the new contract," said Andrews. "And we received it late as far as revision of the contract is concerned. However, we are willing to sit down and talk this out, we just didn't think that letter was the best way to open up discussions."
According to Andrews, Sunnyside officials have never been allowed to give any input into how the police force is operated. In addition, Sunnyside officials have never been provided with any type of report detailing arrests or hours spent patrolling Sunnyside.
Additionally both Andrews and Madrid have taken interest in the lack of fines and fee payments that have been made to Sunnyside from the East Carbon Justice Court.
Madrid reports that the city of Sunnyside has not received any type of payment from the court since the first two months of the four year contract.
The figures she provided stipulate that the East Carbon Police have levied $98,678 during the same contract.
East Carbon officials view the issue as one of fairness for citizens in the town and hope the June 30 meeting will come to a productive conclusion.
"We scheduled the meeting to open up a dialog and negotiation that is fair to both cities," concluded Urbanik. "I just don't think our residents should have to pay for the bulk of police protection for another city."