City officials of West Haven and Hooper are working quietly to establish a joint police department instead of contracting with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
Weber County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Klint Anderson said the Hooper City Council discussed forming a police department in a Thursday night work session.
Anderson said he is unsure how many officers would be hired by the department or the budget for the agency. “I don’t know what they are going to do,” he said. “We wish them the best.”
Both Hooper and West Haven are considering the joint department because their current service contracts with the sheriff’s office are up for renewal next year and their costs would increase dramatically under a proposal by Sheriff Terry Thompson.
Contract costs for the eight municipalities that contract for sheriff’s services have been adjusted slightly over the last decade but haven’t kept pace with service costs, population increases and a reduction in grant funds.
West Haven would have seen the greatest increase in its contract, going from $354,100 to $844,837 per year. Hooper’s contract would have risen from $279,867 to $453,914.
Hooper Mayor Korry Green said Friday the city council has authorized him to gather information about establishing a police department with West Haven, but he declined to elaborate.
“It’s in the very infant stages and to say anything else would be premature,” he said.
The Standard-Examiner obtained a letter Green provided to the Hooper City Council, outlining his proposal for the joint department.
“The combined police force would probably be seven to nine officers with at least two on duty most of the time,” the letter states.
“This means we would have one in Hooper most of the time and surely when we need him/her as they would never be more than a few miles away.
“I also believe having a police car that says Hooper on the side of it will make our citizens feel better about the city, security and services. We would also have officers that we would have a working relationship with and I find great value in that.”
Green expressed some dissatisfaction with the level of service currently provided to Hooper by the sheriff’s office.
“We occasionally see a sheriff truck in the city but I don’t feel like we have a police presence like we used to,” the letter states. “Nor do I feel like we get what we pay for.”
The new police department would likely be housed in the West Haven City Hall and would be directed by three or five representatives from West Haven and Hooper, the letter states.
Hooper would probably pay 60 percent of the costs and West Haven, because it would be providing the facility for police headquarters, would fund the remaining 40 percent.
Even if Hooper does not participate, West Haven Mayor Brian Melaney plans to forge ahead in forming a police department and is “going to do it with, or without us and just make it work,” Green’s letter states.
Melaney said Friday that costs and the number of officers for the police department haven’t been determined.
“It’s apparent what the sheriff wants we can’t pay,” Melaney said. “The other choice is to do something on our own, and that’s the avenue we are pursuing.”
Melaney said West Haven would not establish a special service district or tax and would hopefully fund the police department within existing revenue.
The sheriff’s office will stop providing most services to West Haven and Hooper after June 30 because of the impasse in negotiating a new contract.
Washington Terrace, Huntsville, Uintah, Plain City, Marriott-Slaterville and Farr West have agreed to new contracts, either verbally or in writing, Anderson said.
The new contracts will go into effect July 1 and will be good for five years, he said.
Melaney offered to pay the sheriff’s office $475,000 for law enforcement services, but that is inadequate, Sheriff Terry Thompson wrote in a September letter.
“This ($475,000) equates to approximately five deputy units,” he said in the letter to Melaney. “It is our determination that this level of law enforcement service would place your citizens and our deputies at an unacceptable risk.”
A sheriff’s office precinct in West Haven City Hall is now staffed by a lieutenant, four sergeants, 10 deputies, two detectives and a resource officer assigned to Rocky Mountain Junior High School.
The sheriff’s office will begin reducing assigned personnel and equipment at the precinct over the next several months as it finalizes its 2013 budget.
Thompson said Melaney also hasn’t discussed the contract issue with him in detail. “The perception is, they (West Haven officials) haven’t taken us seriously.”
The lack of communication from Melaney and the West Haven City Council about the contract is perplexing, Anderson said. “It’s frustrating they are not talking to us. They are not telling us much at all, and negotiations have broken down.”
Hooper officials have communicated a little more than West Haven about the contract, Anderson said.
Weber County Commissioner Craig Dearden also sent a letter to Melaney, seeking information about his intentions regarding the sheriff’s office contract.
City officials were supposed to respond by Wednesday so county commissioners can finalize the 2013 budget that goes into effect Jan. 1 and includes sheriff’s office funding.
Officials from West Haven did not respond to the letter, Thompson said.
Hooper did not get a letter from Dearden because officials initially indicated the city planned to stay with the sheriff’s office.
West Haven’s refusal to enter into a new contract will result in a decrease of about 14 percent in staff in the sheriff’s office enforcement division, Anderson said in an email to the Standard-Examiner.
“As it stands, now we are restructuring the sheriff’s office based on what we know currently. That is, we will not have a contract with West Haven ... so we will not be receiving any revenue from West Haven and Hooper and will downsize to stay within our budget,” he said.
The downsizing will include the elimination of four sheriff’s office positions through attrition and the reassignment of at least eight other employees, he said.
In addition, some patrol vehicles and other equipment will be liquidated.
Thompson has said the sheriff’s office has been working for more than a year to develop the contracts.
The unincorporated areas of Weber County and the eight contract cities consume about half of the agency’s services, primarily in patrol and investigations, while providing only a quarter of the funding, Thompson has said.
Currently, Weber County residents who live in cities with police departments pay for local law enforcement through municipal taxes and the sheriff’s office services through county property taxes.
However, residents who live in unincorporated Weber County and the eight contract cities pay only for sheriff’s services.
Some communities pay a larger amount for sheriff’s services than others on a per taxpayer or per capita basis, Thompson has said.
Under state law, only those services that the sheriff’s office provides to all residents should be paid by all taxpayers, he has said.
The proposal for the eight contract cities and unincorporated Weber County includes a cost formula based on each municipality’s population and an 18-month call history.
The proposal also calls for the county to take less in property taxes from all county residents. For example, the owner of a $200,000 home would get a $24 county tax reduction annually.
Although taxpayers in the eight cities that contract with the sheriff’s office would pay less in county property taxes, they may see an increase in city property taxes based on the decisions by their city officials, Thompson has said.
Standard-Examiner correspondent Anita Kersey contributed to this article.
The first number is the proposed contract amount; the second is the current contract amount.
• Huntsville: $52,626; $28,590
• Marriott-Slaterville: $206,582; $190,927
• Farr West: $433,359; $270,122
• Plain City: $354,939; $279,068
• Washington Terrace: $780,981; $834,255
• Hooper: $453,914; $279,867
• West Haven: $844,837; $354,100
• Uintah: $105,327; $68,267