County re-evaluating police service contract
Police services in the eastern portion of the county became a topic of discussion Aug. 6 when the commissioners decided to re-evaluate an expired contract with East Carbon City.
"We need to have our contract reinstated," said East Carbon Mayor Dale Andrews, who was accompanied by five city officials. "It's hard to feel obligated to take police calls when there is no agreement."
The contract allocating East Carbon $22,000 per year to provide police services in unincorporated areas around the town expired in 2000, according to county officials.
County government has continued to pay the city for providing the services since both parties considered the agreement to still be in effect.
But things changed last spring when East Carbon sent a letter to Sunnyside regarding the provision of police services.
The letter offered to continue to provide Sunnyside with police protection, but increased the annual payment for the law enforcement services from $6,000 to almost $50,000.
Sunnyside officials refused to comply with East Carbon's request for the annual payment increase and decided to start a city police department
When the Sunnyside police department became effective July 1, the county commission realized the old agreement had expired with East Carbon City.
The commissioners decided to delay renewing the contract until the county evaluated the situation and decide whether Sunnyside should be involved in the agreement.
"We are interested in resolving the situation between East Carbon and Sunnyside on this service issue," explained Commissioner Bill Krompel. "We once had a good relationship on working together. This whole thing needs a good resolution."
Without representation from Sunnyside in attendance at the commission meeting, officials did not attempt to resolve the law enforcement service issue between the two cities.
"This has a long history," commented Andrews. "Sunnyside had a good thing in Kaiser being there because that was where the money came from. When they closed in 1994, it was left to us to provide police protection."
"With our small budget, we just realized that we couldn't continue to provide that service for $500 a month. We made them an offer, which was still actually lower than what it was costing us, but they decided they would be better off to do it on their own and they have," added the East Carbon mayor.
According to the officials attending the commission meeting, East Carbon police personnel still respond to emergencies in Sunnyside and handle the situations until county sheriff's deputies arrive at the scene.
"This has created a ripple effect," pointed out Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova. "This situation with Sunnyside, unincorporated area calls and even calls in the eastern part of Emery County affects all of us."
The part-time Sunnyside police officers work five-hour shifts per day, according to the officials.
"I am concerned about coverage at East Carbon High and Peterson Elementary," pointed out school district superintendent David Armstrong. "I am particularly worried about when we have games at night at the high school."
Krompel wondered why the two towns did not try to iron out the police protection matter in manner similar to the resolution reached regarding the Sunnyside ambulance services.
"The problem between comparing police and ambulance is that you are comparing apples and oranges," responded East Carbon City Councilman Dave Maggio.
"When an ambulance rolls on a call ,the person who is transported gets a bill that charges them for the service. But when police go out, who pays for it? No bill is issued to anyone," noted the East Carbon City Council member.
The amount of the payment specified in the police service contract between the county and city also came under discussion at the commission meeting.
According to Andrews' information on the history of the agreement, the police services agreement between the county and East Carbon City first came into being in 1983. In the initial contract, the county agreed to pay the city $26,000 per year for its provision of law enforcement services in surrounding unincorporated areas.
Later, the county's payment dropped to $16,000 during a few bad economic times. In 1998 it was raised back up to its present level.
The commission asked Cordova how many calls the East Carbon force had made last year on the contract. The sheriff said he didn't have those numbers at hand but he thought it was less than 10.
"I need to get a more accurate count to be sure," indicated the county sheriff.
Since the C Canyon coal mining operation opened, Andrews pointed out that the number of emergency calls the East Carbon police officers respond to has gone up.
The East Carbon mayor said the increase was primarily due to truck mishaps on the road to the facility.
But the commissioners were not ready to let go of the money to East Carbon.
"I think we need to try and solve this service problem between the communities one more time," said Krompel.
Commissioner Steve Burge suggested splitting the money between the two cities.
"I just don't know whether we pay part to one and part to the other or what to do," stated Burge as he looked to the East Carbon representatives for ideas. "What kind of an amount would you accept if we divided the money somehow?"
It was suggested that East Carbon get 19/24ths of the money since the city has full 24 hour law enforcement coverage of the area and Sunnyside has only five hours of police coverage per day.
"There is nothing negative about their police force except there isn't enough coverage," said Maggio.
It was also suggested that the county grant the money to East Carbon. Carbon government could then pay Sunnyside when the smaller town's police force had to respond on a county emergency call because East Carbon's force was tied up with a different matter.
After the discussion regarding the provision of police services in the eastern area of the county and the agreement concluded, the commissioners decided to delay acting in the matter and examine the issue more thoroughly.
The county commissioners plan to facilitate a meeting between the three governmental entities as well as the sheriff's department to try and work out the situation and resolve several of the exisiting differences.