NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden leaders love their police department and plan to keep it.
Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon presented a plan on Tuesday to the North Ogden City Council to take over law enforcement that would have trimmed the amount the city pays by as much as $1.29 million a year. The proposal also would have resulted in the elimination of the North Ogden Police Department. But city officials turned the plan back in short order, deciding instead to maintain the police department and move forward with a plan to bond for up to $11 million to build a new public safety building.
Council members cited the ability to have more of a say in law enforcement matters, concerns that the city’s character would suffer without a police department and satisfaction with the way policing is currently handled.
“To me it’s part of our city identity to have our own police department,” said Councilperson Charlotte Ekstrom.
Councilperson Ryan Barker offered a similar take. “I think what we do lose is feel, community feel,” he said, mulling the notion of shifting law enforcement in the city to the sheriff’s office. “We like to see the North Ogden Police Department when we’re driving around.”
Mayor Neal Berube had proposed waiting a week after Arbon’s presentation to give council members a chance to digest his plan. Arbon proposed handling policing, at least initially, for $2.01 million a year. That’s down from the North Ogden Police Department budget for the year of $2.7 million, a number that would increase to an estimated $3.3 million if and when the city finalizes plans to bond for the new police department structure.
Councilperson Phil Swanson, though, pushed for a vote on the question, his mind made up. The discussion unfolded at Tuesday’s North Ogden City Council meeting, and the body ultimately voted 5-0 to keep with the plan to build a new law enforcement building, thus maintaining the police department.
“Sometimes we have to make these decisions in life where we have to spend a little bit more to maintain what we have,” said Swanson, offering praise to Arbon and the sheriff’s office. “There isn’t sufficient reason to change what we have now.”
Arbon offered to draw up a formal proposal to have the sheriff’s office handle policing in North Ogden after news emerged of the City Council decision to bond for a new building to house police and municipal court functions. The structure would cost up to $11 million, offering a more secure atmosphere and replacing the aging and cramped building now housing the functions.
The sheriff said he was spurred by North Ogden residents interested in a proposal from his office, which already handles policing in several Weber County cities. He had earlier discussed the possibility with North Ogden leaders as they debated the future of their police department and renewed contacts with them after the City Council reached consensus on March 23 to bond for a new building.
Apart from the reduced base cost for policing, Arbon said getting coverage from the sheriff’s office would eliminate other city costs, like some liability insurance fees, upkeep of the police department building and more. Moreover, the sheriff’s office, because it’s much larger than the North Ogden Police Department, offers a broader range of investigative offerings and other services.
Arbon’s plan called for staffing of 15 sworn sheriff’s office employees to handle policing in North Ogden, down from the 21 in the North Ogden Police Department. What’s more, he offered to hire all of North Ogden’s sworn officers at their current wage or higher and to keep them at their current rank.
Eight communities contract with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement coverage — Farr West, Plain City, Hooper, Uintah, West Haven, Huntsville, Marriott-Slaterville and Washington Terrace. The sheriff’s office also covers the unincorporated areas of the county. Though the sheriff’s office maintains regular ties and communication with officials in the cities it polices, Councilperson Cheryl Stoker had her doubts.
Shifting to protection from the sheriff’s office, “the mayor and City Council wouldn’t have as much as they do now,” she said. “That’s part of what would be taken away from us.”