Monticello considers police force consolidation
by Anna Thayn
Feb 16, 2011 | 5680 views | 0 0 comments | 1010 1010 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge presented the Monticello City Council with a proposal to consolidate city law enforcement with the Sheriff’s office at the February 8 city council meeting.

Eldredge told the council the proposal is only a rough outline he had prepared at the request of the council. It will require many details to be evaluated if the idea is something the city may pursue. The proposal is one option being considered as the council looks for ways to save money in the city budget.

Under the outline presented, the city would receive coverage from three and a half officers which the Sheriff said would be needed to properly cover the city. Eldredge presented salary numbers for the three current city officers if they were to become employees of the sheriff’s office.  

He said that a contract with the county would require the city to pay the cost of two equipped police vehicles in the first year and one vehicle per year after that.

According to Chief of Police Kent Adair, the newest vehicle in the fleet is four years old, and the oldest vehicle is seven years old. Also included would be laptop computers for each officer, at a cost of $8,238, with one being replaced each year at $2,746, and an air card for internet access for each computer, at an annual cost of $2,100. The city has no computer system for officers now.

Eldredge said the initial estimated cost is $315,621 per year. Eldredge said the cost would decrease by approximately $40,000 after the first year of start up costs, but pointed out that the proposal does not take into consideration the cost of overtime, which would be approximately $10,000 to the city, as well as many other costs, including ammunition, weapons and other operating costs, which he estimated would add another $10,000 at least.

Adair reported that vehicle maintenance is not considered in the proposal, at a cost of around $20,000 annually.  If the additional costs match the estimates, the proposal could initially cost the city $355,000 in the first year, before going down to the estimated $316,000.  

The current city police budget is $347,000, which includes four officers rather than the 3.5 proposed by the county. Adair reports that the department runs approximately 10 percent under budget. 

Eldredge said the city would need to evaluate who would receive city justice court revenue, if they would continue to employ a judge and if the county attorney would prosecute misdemeanor cases.

Eldredge said office space is an issue since the city deputies would move to the public safety building, which is full. The change could require the highway patrol to move out of their existing office space. Also a consideration is the cost of payout of sick leave and vacation pay, as they would become county employees.

Eldredge said that deputies in the northern end of the county would rotate through the city so they would not have the same officers all the time.

Councilman Brad Randall expressed concern about the city paying the cost of more expensive officers and receiving service from newer, lower paid deputies. Eldredge said all deputies would continually rotate through the city.

City Manager Kelly Pehrson said Monticello is considered a Class 5 town, requiring only a city marshal or Chief of Police by state code. “If we do that the county is required to patrol the City of Monticello as if it’s patrolling the county,” said Pehrson.

When asked his opinion on consolidation, Sheriff Eldredge told the council, “I want what’s best for Monticello citizens, as long as it’s quality.” 

Pehrson said that a savings of $30,000 didn’t make sense for the city, but asked about the possibility of a two-man crew using jailers for callouts.

Eldredge said that using jailers for callouts would not be an option as they are already overloaded in the jail. Pehrson asked how proactive two policemen can be, to which Eldredge responded, “You can’t be proactive. You will just be playing defense the whole time.”

The council will consider the proposal before moving forward. In the event they decide to consolidate, a public hearing would be required before a decision is made.

The council approved two grant applications for the Community Impact Board. The city’s application designated as first priority is $847,000 to meter the secondary water system with 75 percent grant and 25 percent loan. $847,000 will fund the entire project, including meters and installation for 580 existing connections. It also includes an upgrade to the system that electronically reads meters from a vehicle.  The upgrade will make the system more powerful in order to read secondary meters located toward the rear of properties.  

 Prior to the decision, the council held a public hearing regarding the applications being considered. 

Regarding the metering of the secondary system, the council was asked whether they will establish a pay structure immediately or monitor the system to determine use cost.

Mayor Allen said they have not discussed a rate structure, but said that it would be a challenge. He said that in his opinion, the biggest benefit to the city from the program will be water conservation.

Randall asked if it is more cost effective to eliminate the secondary system rather than meter it.

Public Works Superintendent Nathan Langston said that a big obstacle would be keeping up with the need for treated water in the summer and the possible need for another treatment cell at the water plant.

There is concern related to the “hidden costs” to citizens, mainly in the need for a higher form of backflow prevention on individual customer connections, as well as the cost to residents to hook sprinkling systems into a culinary connection.  Council approved 4-1, with Randall voting against.

The second application, approved unanimously, is for water and sewer line extensions on the north end of the city. The project will initially serve ten homes and one business, as well as the Science Center.  The council said that if the project is not funded as 100 percent grant, they will not proceed.

Keith Clark reported on the first year of the farmer’s market program.  Clark said that he is encouraged with the results and is looking forward to another good season.  At its high point, the market had eight vendor booths, with six or more vendors each week in September. September also saw the highest number of customers visiting the market, topping out with 100 on its best night.

On average, there were 4.5 booths per week and a total of 958 customers for the season. Money made from vendor fees covered the cost of advertising and left enough to begin the 2011 season.

Clark encouraged residents to begin planning their gardens now and include produce for the farmers market.  The market begins June 2 and runs every Thursday evening, with plans to continue to October 27.  Clark is frustrated about fruit and vegetables around town that rot in gardens and orchards. He encouraged citizens with extra produce to bring it to the market.

Clark said those who are not interested in selling at the market or picking them for their own should contact him. He will pass on information to people who are looking for fruit or vegetables and are willing to pick them.
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