WEST HAVEN —The city council has unanimously decided to contract with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office for police services rather than form a city police department.
After more than two hours of discussion this week, the council decided the county’s offer to lower its contract price from $844,000 to $670,000 was too good to turn down. That amount will fund six patrolmen and one detective for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013.
The council also didn’t feel comfortable having to make a final decision on police services by Dec. 11, the date the sheriff’s department has to have its budget finalized for the coming year.
“I thought coming in to this tonight that, for me, it was a go toward forming our own police department,” Councilman Blaine Holmes said. “But now since I have heard both sides, I feel we should take the county’s offer and take the next year to learn all the details we need to make a decision this important to our city and to do some soul searching.”
Mayor Brian Melaney laid out the advantages and disadvantages between the two options.
“My duty as mayor is to do what you decide and I will do that with my fullest energy,” Melaney said.
“If you decide to stay with the sheriff’s office, my job is very easy — I instruct the treasurer to write a check. If you decide to go with our own force, I kiss my wife tonight and tell her I will see her in January. I have to find a police chief and put a police department in place.”
The council’s final decision is the culmination of months of negotiations between West Haven, Hooper and the sheriff’s office to either accept the increased cost of contracting with the sheriff or form their own police department.
Former South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe was asked by West Haven and Hooper to develop an analysis to show what it would take for the two cities to create and maintain a joint police department.
Shupe presented that analysis to the Hooper council at its last meeting, showing that if the two cities were to join forces they could have a fully funded force for about $1.1 million a year. Hooper opted instead to stay with the county.
Shupe then reconfigured his analysis for West Haven to go it alone. He told the council that cost would be $855,523. That would include personnel costs for seven full-time and five part-time officers, as well as other expenses, including vehicles.
Weber County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Klint Anderson told the council he wouldn’t try to talk West Haven out of forming its own department.
“We want to partner with you to get there, but our officers have done a great job and I am very fond of them,” he said. “I also care about your residents, and in the end, we all want what’s best for your city.”
He said the decision to have to raise costs for most cities that contract with the sheriff was based on an 18-month study that showed there was an imbalance in what each city was paying. He said this wasn’t the cities’ fault and that they each had paid what they were asked to pay, but that it was time to make adjustments.
Anderson said that, on average, a city the size and with the demographic makeup of West Haven would want a police department of 15 or more officers and several non-sworn employees..
“Our desire was that West Haven contract with us for 9-10 deputies at $844,000 to $960,000 and we feel we can provide services comparable to a 15-man department by sharing supervisors and commanders along with administrative overhead with the county and other contract cities.”
Anderson acknowledged it is a big leap from the $354,000 the city now pays to the $844,000 the sheriff’s office originally was seeking.
“We have negotiated (a price of) $670,000 for a one-year period, which will fund six patrolmen and one detective who will directly serve West Haven.”
The amount charged the city will then increase to the $844,000 over the next two years.
He said that this is a very trim police presence and does not allow for much in the way of crime prevention activities, but deputies will use all of their free time between 911 calls to conduct traffic enforcement and patrol neighborhoods so that they are seen and can serve as a conspicuous crime deterrent.
The new contract will take effect on July 1, 2013.