With the current contract due to run out on Sept. 19, Sunnyside city has turned to thier citizens for input concerning ongoing negotiations with East Carbon officials over a rise in the cost of ongoing police protection.
Councilmembers recently sent out a second survey to Sunnyside residents which they hope will clear up the public's true perception of the issue.
"The deadline for the surveys to be turned in is Thursday," said Sunnyside councilmember Doug Parsons. "Once we have them back we will see what the response is and go from there."
Parsons stated that he felt the council would go with the prevailing response of the citizens but did comment that if only a small percentage of surveys were returned the council would also take that into consideration.
The issue has been contested for the past three months as the municipalities have gone back and forth over what a fair price for coverage is.
The second survey presented to Sunnyside residents asks if they would prefer to:
â¢Stay with East Carbon's protection and "not have any right to voice our opinion about budget, procedures or management."
â¢Ask the county for protection at an even higher cost and slower response rate.
â¢Hire a certified officer for the city at a base rate of $50,000 to include medical and life insurance provisions.
The survey also asks residents if they would be willing to have additional fees added to utility bills in order to cover the increased cost of law enforcement service.
East Carbon officials took exception with the way many of the questions were posed in the survey. To respond, East Carbon drafted a letter to Sunnyside citizens outlining the city's offer and position in the matter.
The survey lists East Carbon's current offer at $65,090 with an annual increase of 4 percent.
However, a recent negotiation between the city's mayors has lowered the increase to $60,000 with a $2,000 yearly charge for animal control plus the 4 percent inflation increase.
"East Carbon has been willing to negotiate the police agreement," indicates the city's letter. "We are willing to provide service, but cannot continue to at the current price due to rising costs."
"Sunnyside is considering their own police protection at $50,000 per year. There are many costs involved in operating a police department 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. East Carbon believes that $50,000 falls considerably below what the actual cost is," continues the letter.
The letter also states that, if the members of Sunnyside's council were to accept the new offer for coverage, a board made up of the mayors of the two towns and East Carbon Police Chief Sammy Leonard would give Sunnyside more voice in law enforcement matters.
"This is the best possible offer East Carbon will be able to contract for," states the letter.
While the surveys have not yet been counted, several Sunnyside residents have already expressed their opinions on the issue.
"I want to stick with what we have," said Sunnyside resident Nola Porter. "I saw what happened the last time that we tried to start our own police department, it was a mess.
Porter also indicated on her completed survey that she would be willing to pay a little more if it meant she could continue to have the police protection that she is used to.
Additionally, K'Lynn Hepworth of Sunnyside, who attended the council's public hearing, felt that the majority of the city's residents wanted to stick with East Carbon's department.
"I didn't feel like the council was very receptive to what the publics comments were," said Hepworth.
When asked, councilmember Parsons reported that the residents opinion was important, however, he didn't feel the city as a whole was represented at the hearing and thus the reason for the surveys.
"I still think what East Carbon is asking is a little steep," said Parsons. "But I can see where they are coming from. There has to be a meeting point where we are not being overcharged or undercharged. We just want to do what is best for our residents."
According to Parsons, the main sticking point for the Sunnyside council is their lack of say in running of the department.
"For the money we pay, we would like to have some say in where that money is being spent," he said. "But I would like to see this resolved. We need to bring this whole issue to an end."
Along with forming a board giving Sunnyside a voice in running the department, East Carbon's informal letter to Sunnysice residents highlighted the coverage provided under the current contract.
The letter closes with several coverage highlights:
â¢Four full-time police officers equipped with the highest quality equipment.
â¢A combined 34 years of law enforcement experience.
â¢An animal control officer with a vehicle.
â¢19 hours of daily control, 365 days per year.
â¢A certified DARE officer at Bruin Point Elementary.
â¢A fixed four-year agreement on cost.