East Carbon reviews public safety contract
East Carbon officials convened a special council meeting Thursday as their interlocal agreement with Sunnyside was due to run out at midnight. They met to discuss a offer submitted on Sept.17 by Sunnyside attorney Craig Bunnell, in which Sunnyside accepted the price increase for protection but requested several changes within the agreement as a whole. As the meeting concluded East Carbon officials extended the current contract by 30 days to allow for further negotiation.
After opening the meeting, city officials adjourned to a closed session to discuss the offer with their attorney before returning to the council chambers in order to address the contract.
"There are some changes they would like made to the agreement but did agree to the price increase," said East Carbon Attorney Jeremiah Humes. "They took issue with the 4 percent increase and suggested that the mayors from both cities get together and decide on a number that is fair year by year. However, I would like to see the increase tied to the consumer price index, I have seen many contracts tied to that number and it would seem that Sunnyside should be comfortable with that number."
Additionally, Sunnyside requested a quarterly report that Humes suggested by statistical in nature in order to provide the city with crime rates and trends.
The contract also requested that Sunnyside receive 20 percent of the total patrol time done by the department.
"That is less than we are doing now," said East Carbon councilmember Terry Harrison. "We will maintain what we are doing now which is more than 20 percent."
The largest debate concerning the contract came over Sunnyside's request that their court cases be heard in Price rather than within East Carbon justice court.
"It's a huge burden for our officers to have to come into court and all criminal matters should be dealt with here in East Carbon," said Humes. "It allows for our officers to be available for any type of emergency that may happen within the city. Civil matters could be negotiated, but I would recommend to the council that all criminal cases be tried here."
Following extension of the current contract for further negotiation, East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard addressed the council concerning the law enforcement department's stance on the requested changes.
"I have a concern that, if we take Sunnyside's criminal cases to Price, we are going to run into the same problem that we used to," explained Leonard. "I have concern with all of our officers being in court at the same time. It used to happen and I would say a little prayer that nothing would happen while we were gone."
According to the chief, certain court dates can tie several officers up for five to six hour at a time, leaving the community with almost no police service.
"The whole council is sensitive to that issue," said Councilmember Harrison. "We have gone as far as to put a full-time animal control officer on duty to limit the amount of time that our officers are out of the city."
Leonard was not the only law enforcement officer in attendance who took issue with attending court in Price.
"I would much rather come in on my day off and appear here than have to go down to Price and wait for five or six hours to testify for 30 seconds and then be sent home," said East Carbon Police Sgt. Phillip Holt.
Lastly, East Carbon officials discussed the sensitive nature of many police documents and how important it would be that everyone respect the chain of evidence.
"We don't have a problem with Sunnyside seeing anything that goes on inside the department but these documents would have to be give extreme care, in fact I think the reports would be sealed, marked confidential and hand delivered to the mayor," concluded LaFontaine.