HOOPER — The city council has unanimously decided to contract with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office for police services rather join with West Haven to form a joint department.
After lengthy discussion at Thursday night’s meeting, council members decided they didn’t have nearly enough information and there were too many unknowns to make a decision of this magnitude by Dec. 11, which is the date the sheriff’s department has to have its budget finalized for the coming year.
Both West Haven and Hooper face sizable increases in the amount they would pay under a revamped fee schedule developed by the sheriff’s office to more accurately reflect the department’s cost to provide police services on a contract basis to eight cities in the county.
West Haven would see the greatest increase, with its costs going from $354,100 to $844,837 per year. Hooper’s contract would rise from $279,867 to $453,914.
Retired South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe, a consultant to the city. presented an analysis to the council to show what it would take to create and maintain a police department for the two cities.
Shupe used a yearly operating budget of about $1.1 million. That amount would fund salaries for seven full-time officers. Those full-time officers would be supplemented by a pool of part-time officers in order to have a three-person minimum mandatory coverage.
That figure also included costs for employee benefits, overtime, insurance, uniforms and equipment, travel training and memberships, office supplies, department supplies and small equipment, professional and technical training, I.T., eight vehicles, fuel, CSI and a strike force team.
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson told the council that one of the driving forces behind the new contract costs is that some cities are not paying their fair share.
“One of the biggest inequities was West Haven,” Gibson said, “who has not been paying their fair share for some time. I would caution Hooper to realize that West Haven is thinking of West Haven. I would be careful of taking a risk to form your own police department with another city.”
Councilman Courtney Putman asked if the county had considered easing into these contracts rather than doing it all at once, “since then they wouldn’t be here talking about this tonight.”
Gibson replied that everything has been on the table, including the possibility of phasing in, but “there still is an unfairness during that phase time, so we felt like it’s more fair to do this as soon as possible.”
Hooper resident Lauri Brinkerhoff told the council she originally believed forming a police department would be a good thing.
“But after hearing both sides tonight,” she said, “I feel this is like a puzzle without all the pieces on the table.
“We need something in print, something concrete that puts the numbers in front of us. I now have changed my mind, and I don’t feel the city has enough information, let alone income, to venture into something like this at this time.”
Sheriff’s Lt. John Morrow, who is the Hooper precinct commander, acknowledged there has been “some talk that you are not getting the level of law enforcement that you should, but I need to be told when there is a concern at the time it happens and not just at a council meeting. We are here to serve you, and we will do that to the best of our ability.”
Mayor Korry Green said that with the immediate time frame the city faces to make a decision, it is not the best decision at this time to go along with West Haven.
“One way or the other, property taxes are going to go up in order to make up for the huge increase in cost for law enforcement, whether we had gone along with West Haven or stay with the county, but I am still in negotiations with the county on the amount we will have to pay.”
West Haven Mayor Brian Melaney said in a later telephone interview that his city plans to move forward “with plans for our own law enforcement.”