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Weber County Sheriff’s Office contract cities face jump in fees with planned hires

By Tim Vandenack standard-Examiner - | Jul 9, 2021
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Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon, photographed in his office on Thursday, July 8, 2021.

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Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon, photographed in his office on Thursday, July 8, 2021.

OGDEN — The Weber County Sheriff’s Office’s contract cities are facing the biggest jumps in the fees they pay for law enforcement protection since at least fiscal year 2018-2019.

The larger-than-usual increases, according to Sheriff Ryan Arbon, are due in part to plans to hire an additional eight deputies, mainly to help augment patrolling in the eight cities, Farr West, Hooper, Huntsville, Marriott-Slaterville, Plain City, Uintah, Washington Terrace and West Haven.

“We felt we should increase the number of deputies on the road and that’s where this comes from,” said Arbon. Behind the hiring decision, he said, are population increases and rising crime.

The billing total for fiscal year 2021-2022, which goes from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, collectively amounts to $5.02 million for the eight locales, up 17.1% from $4.29 million for 2020-2021. The $4.29 million reflected a 9.1% jump in billing from the prior year’s total of $3.93 million, which represented a 4.9% increase from $3.75 million in 2018-2019. The 2018-2019 figure represented just a 0.4% hike from $3.74 million in 2017-2018.

The larger increase for 2021-2022 notwithstanding, Arbon says the coverage the sheriff’s office provides is still less expensive than what the cities would pay if they had their own police departments. Having a larger department allows for economies of scale in sheriff’s office operations and allows it to offer more specialized investigative services. “It’s a lot less expensive and you get more services and you have a lot more resources,” Arbon said.

And the increase notwithstanding, the contract cities are supportive of the sheriff’s office, he said, which employs around 380 people in all — including the corrections officers who work in the county jail. The Sheriff’s Office also provides law enforcement in unincorporated Weber County while the other Weber County cities, including Ogden, Roy, North Ogden and South Ogden, have their own police departments.

“I feel like the (contract) cities support us 100%. I know they support us and they support law enforcement,” Arbon said. “When we told them we needed more officers, they supported us.”

Though plans to hire the eight officers through next January are perhaps the main factor in the increased billing amounts, the sheriff’s office faces financial pressures elsewhere. Among other things, deputies face increased training requirements, and responding to domestic violence calls, in particular, is increasingly complicated, requiring more time and expense.

’A REALLY BIG JUMP FOR US'

Fast-growing West Haven pays the most of the contract cities, by far, and Sharon Bolos, the mayor, understands the rationale behind the jump for 2021-2022. West Haven will pay $1.58 million for law enforcement protection in 2021-2022, up from $1.31 million in 2020-2021, a 20.5% rise.

“It’s a really big jump for us. But our city’s growing and we have more residents and more calls,” Bolos said. The 2021-2022 fee represents a 57.7% increase from the $1 million West Haven paid in 2017-2018.

West Haven officials have had on-and-off talks over the year about creating a police department to serve the city, and the West Haven City Council decided last month to hire a consultant to delve more deeply into the issue. The consultant is tasked with determining the pros and cons of staying with the sheriff’s office, creating a new police department or even creating a policing district with other cities.

Like Bolos, Washington Terrace City Manager Tom Hanson also understands the rationale for the increased sheriff’s office bill. Washington Terrace will pay $1.02 million for police protection in 2021-2022, the second-highest amount of the contract cities. That’s up from $870,021 in 2020-2021, a 16.7% jump.

“It’s kind of one of those things, it is what it is,” Hanson said. The increase figures in a proposed tax hike in the city that’s the focus of an Aug. 3 public hearing.

Washington Terrace had its own police department several years ago, but shifted to the sheriff’s office for protection in part due to cost. Indeed, Hanson figures the city would be paying $1.5 million-$1.6 million a year to maintain a police department, if it still had one.

“They’re a very good crew, a very, very good partner for the city,” said Hanson, alluding to the sheriff’s office deputies who police Washington Terrace. “We feel like we have a good value with the sheriff.”

If Hanson does have a complaint, it’s over the shift in how the sheriff’s office fees are determined for each city. The sheriff’s office used to use a formula that based 50% of the fee on a city’s population and 50% on the volume of calls a locale receives. For 2021-2022, leaders from the cities narrowly voted to change the weighting, basing 40% on a city’s population and 60% on call volume.

“That was a little disappointing for Washington Terrace because we recognize crime has no border,” Hanson said.

Call volume can have a dramatic impact on fees. Washington Terrace and Hooper are comparably sized, with estimated populations of 9,248 and 9,152, respectively, as of 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. But because Washington Terrace gets more calls, it’ll pay much more for police protection, $1.02 million in 2021-2022 versus $672,795 for Hooper.

Here are the billing amounts for the eight sheriff’s office contract cities for 2021-2022:

West Haven: $1.58 million, up 20.5% from $1.31 million in 2020-2021.

Washington Terrace: $1.02 million, up 16.7% from $870,021 in 2020-2021.

Hooper: $672,795, up 13.9% from $590,732 in 2020-2021.

Farr West: $644,651, up 15.2% from 559,825 in 2020-2021.

Plain City: $565,274, up 18.8% from $475,761 in 2020-2021.

Marriott-Slaterville: $322,935, up 12.5% from $287,113 in 2020-2021.

Uintah: $146,405, up 12.2% from $130,518 in 2020-2021.

Huntsville: $72,844, up 14.6% from $63,575 in 2020-2021.

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