East Carbon ratifies final offer for police service in Sunnyside
East Carbon City officials made their position clear as they ratified a final offer for Sunnyside concerning an increase in the city's public safety contract at last Tuesday's meeting.
In a second motion, the council voted to move the termination date of the contract back 60 days from the previous cut off of July 18, in order to give the cities more time to come to a compromise.
Councilmembers and the mayors have been negotiating for the past month about an increase in the sum Sunnyside would pay East Carbon for ongoing police protection.
While the new offer is nearly $20,000 more than Sunnyside had proposed to the neighboring council, it is the bottom amount East Carbon officials will accept.
The East Carbon council will send Sunnyside a formal letter offering ongoing police protection for $69,500 a year with a four percent annual inflation increase.
"I don't feel like they came to our work meeting with the intention of negotiating," said East Carbon Councilmember Andy Urbanik. "They just wanted to tell us how wrong our figures were and that we were paying our officers too much money."
East Carbon's mayor had similar sentiments concerning the meeting.
"We took time out in good faith to negotiate and they showed up with no number. They didn't even bring their own budget," said Orlando LaFontaine. "We took into consideration the $49,000 a year they offered us and it was just not enough. That doesn't even cover our fuel budget, much less the cost of a full officer."
Urbanik and LaFontaine represent East Carbon on the public safety board, which oversees the interlocal agreement between the cities and recommend that the council accept a prior offer made on behalf of Sunnyside's attorney Craig Bunnell.
In a letter addressed to East Carbon's city attorney, Jeremy Humes, Bunnell stated:
"Sunnyside requests the following ... that East Carbon City consider recalculating their total proposed operating budget amount by offsetting the same with the existing grant and other such funding for police services and possibly the capital outlay-equipment line item ($120,000). When Sunnyside City entered into the existing agreement with the current monthly payment, the monies were intended to help pay exclusively for one full-time police officer (out of four officers). Sunnyside city is in favor of using a proportionate population figure (i.e. 23 percent for Sunnyside city, of the total population of the EC/SS area) to determine a new monthly payment, provided, however, an acceptable operating budget figure can be used in the new formula to calculate the same."
In response to the request, East Carbon officials took the city's total operating police budget, subtracted the capital outlay and the $27,000 provided by Carbon County for unincorporated area protection and decided to offer to provide the services for 23 percent of that figure.
"The number we arrived at was $69,500 and that is going to be our offer," said Urbanik. "We aren't trying to take anything from Sunnyside, we are just asking that they pay their fair share of the price."
Councilmember Terry Harrison then interjected a caveat into the motion,.
"There will be no more negotiations," stated Harrison. "If they can't meet with us in good faith by the end of the term then we terminate the contract."
In the event the cities fail to come to an agreement, the council considered the fact that even though the contract may be terminated, East Carbon police officers will still be required to respond to certain calls.
"We would respond to anything that poses a danger to the community," said East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard. "Things like domestic violence and other dangerous situations would have to be seen to immediately."
LaFontaine proposed that, in the event a potentially dangerous situation were to arise, East Carbon would charge Sunnyside on a per response basis based on the average price of police calls.
"You know, we have some surplus equipment and, if Sunnyside decides that they will be better off with their own police force, then we could help them in that regard," said LaFontaine.
Aside from stating that the funds are not in the city's budget for the type of increase, Sunnyside has had several issues with the police and court service East Carbon has provided.
Sunnyside's Mayor Bruce Andrews reported that, during the duration of the contract, neither he nor his staff has ever received any type of incident report review of the police's coverage in his city.
Additionally Sunnyside has not been compensated by the East Carbon Justice Court for the fees and fines that were levied in connection with incidents occurring within the city.
East Carbon officials attributed the situation to a glitch in the computer system which tallies and allocates the fines.
They committed during the work meeting on July 30 to go back through and back-pay Sunnyside for everything they are owed.
"It's great that you guys were able to bring in business with the property you have available," said Sunnyside councilmember Doug Parsons, speaking about Vital Energy's recent property purchase in East Carbon. "But we are land locked up here by Pentacreek, $49,000 a year is all we can afford."
Following the ratification of the offer letter and service extension, LaFontaine sought and gained the council's approval to perform an economic development study for the feasibility and impact of developing an East Carbon ambulance service.
The move, stated the mayor, would be "good for the residents of East Carbon."