The Monticello City Council has decided against proceeding on an idea that could have absorbed the Monticello Police Department into the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.
Pros and cons of the idea were considered at the January 26 meeting of the City Council.
Rough estimates are that the costs for each option are roughly the same, at approximately $300,000 per year. The discussion focused on the advantages or disadvantages of the City having its own police department.
The idea was considered after the January 12 termination of longtime Police Chief Kent Adair and the firing of Officer Cole Young. Avery Olsen is currently the only employee of the three-member police department.
The chief position has been advertised and some applications have been received.
City Manger Ty Bailey said it could be hard to restart a city police force. He added that if a sheriff did not want to continue an arrangement with the city, it could be nearly impossible to get vehicles and equipment necessary to have a functioning police department and that does not even include getting personnel hired.
City resident Lee Burningham said that the city would lose the personal touch and involvement with a city employee if the department was consolidated. Burningham said he has experienced a unified police system and said that there is also a loss of control by the city.
Burningham said that if the city gives this responsibility to the county, we may not even need a city council and could just abdicate their responsibility to the county commission.
City resident Tom Wigginton said that community programs, which the police department have been involved in, could possibly be lost. One such program could be the DARE program. The constant theme from public comment seemed to be that the public would like to keep a local police department.
City Councilman Sanford Randall, who works in law enforcement, said it makes sense to consolidate. However, Randall added that he feels the city has the unique opportunity to build what they want from nothing to something that works for the community. Randall said he would like to see that approach.
Bailey said there is a tangible benefit to the police department being a direct part of the city.
Randall said you can’t get a better product in the end than by building what the city needs from the ground up.
Bailey said that the city financial picture could improve significantly in the next four years, if they kept their own services.
The perspective of Avery Olsen was sought since a change would impact him directly. The Sheriff has expressed the desire to employ Olsen.
Olsen said it is a long-term financial problem because there would be no need for a city justice court if the department is absorbed into the county. Olsen said there would be a loss of grants and other funds. Olsen also said there could be even more gaps in communication if officers on call are rotated.
The council was amicable to not consolidate the city police force with the county. They determined to pursue the filling of the chief of police position.
In other business at the January 26 Council meeting, Councilman Steve Duke conducted the meeting in the absence of Mayor Tim Young. The first item of business was to elect a Mayor Pro Tempore for just such occasions. Duke was unanimously approved for the position.
The Council approved a request by City Manager Ty Bailey to update all city entities to a common software package. These entities include the swimming pool, pro shop at the golf course, and the welcome center. This would bring additional accountability since each entity would use the software for point of sales, to close their sales and to make their deposit.
The software package will also allow city residents to register for recreation programs offered by the city. All city employee will familiar with the software and could fill in if needed. Detail for sales and inventory would flow between the entities and the city office.
Recreation Director Natalie Randall completed the research to find the product and insure that it will interface with current computers. The $12,969 price tag includes technical support and updates. Annual fees after the first year is $3,124.
The purchase of the software package was approved. It will be installed soon so the bugs can be worked out before the summer season begins, as well as before a new fiscal year begins in July. Bailey said it is important to have the entire fiscal year on the new system.
During public comment, Bill Boyle requested that the Council allow public comment at open meetings. Boyle said that an elected body has the responsibility to represent those who elect them and part of that representation includes access by the public in an open public setting.
Boyle also discussed the confidential nature of any information shared in closed session. Boyle said that not defending one’s decision by disclosing confidential information is unfortunately a cost of public service. He said that to disclose confidential information is not only unprofessional, but also illegal.