Public on police: North Bend residents speak about proposed contract change

Inside or out of city limits, North Bend residents asked members of the North Bend City Council to think carefully about their next move on a police contract for the city. Think about public safety, not just costs, they said, and think about the larger community.

Jonathan Seaton, a resident just outside city limits, was one of nine people who offered his opinion to the council at its April 17 meeting. He, like several other speakers, urged caution before ending the city's contract with the King County Sheriff's office.

"If North Bend contracts with the Snoqualmie Police Department, the new Snoqualmie-North Bend Police might as well have one eye closed when they drive down my street, where one side is North Bend, the other side is unincorporated King County," he said.

Currently, that area is served by sheriff's deputies, who patrol both sides of the line, he said. If that service were to end, he foresaw a potential increase in crime, and resentment outside the city limits.

"It is critical to think of the value received for the money spent, over the actual cost. To save too much money can be wasteful," he said.  "I ask you to buy the best quality service you can possibly afford, to keep this community, the larger North Bend community, together and safe."

City resident Piper Muoio said at first she thought the contract with Snoqualmie was a great idea, "it sounded like everything we could want or imagine," she said. However, she added, "we're not really comparing apples to apples," with the two contracts. She urged the council to stay with the sheriff's department, to preserve the connection between enforcement in the city and county portions of North Bend.

"I think overall, safety needs to be number one," she said.

Linda Grez, also in unincorporated North Bend, emphasized the benefit of maintaining the city's current service, over the "relatively slight long-term  financial impact," of a contract with Snoqualmie. The new contract was not risk-free, she said, and North Bend's entry into it would mean "the disruption of a largely successful partnership, which plays an important role in our community."

Business owner Sherwood Korrsjoen spoke from the perspective of being a tax-payer in both cities and having worked with both police agencies.

"They're both good. They're both fine examples of community policing, community cops," he said. "I feel safe in both cities."

Korrsjoen felt the council was facing a difficult decision, and urged them to keep public safety in mind first, before cost savings. "We need to, whatever choice is made, make sure there's adequate protection…. I think we need to make sure people are comfortable with the coverage that they're getting."

He also reminded them all of the backups that occur on Interstate-90 when Snoqualmie Pass closes, and the impact that had on North Bend police manpower. North Bend officers are usually the first to arrive to help direct traffic, until State Patrol officers can get there.

Cam Webster, a city resident and retired sheriff's deputy, said "I have nothing but good things to say about (Snoqualmie Police Chief) Jim Schaffer and Captain McCulley," but added that "there's no replacement for the depth of experience and the depth of resources that you have, when you have the sheriff's department as your police service."

He urged the city to preserve its contract with the sheriff, even if it meant cutting its police Chief, Mark Toner, to save money.

"I think it's no secret that the city of North Bend has always gotten more than it pays for in police services. Let's face it, the cops that work in the North Bend area, they hang out in the city," he said. "This is where the Starbucks is."

Webster also said the local police station, a place for citizens to come in and talk to their police force, was a "fantastic resource," and he would hate to lose it.

Wade Holden, who works closely with the sheriff's department, using work-release prisoners for clean-up work through Friends of the Trail, spoke in favor of preserving the contract, too.

"The way I see things… the North Bend contract is about the services for the city of North Bend. It isn't just about the city of North Bend, it's about the Valley," he said.

From the prisoners he uses, Holden says he's heard enough to know that they're drawn to smaller towns, and "I really do believe that the King County officers know the players."

He also said the city needed a police chief, and a place for people to come and talk to their police force.

Paula Lodahl had only two points to make: the county is always there whenever her workplace at the outlet mall needs them, plus every day at opening and every night at closing; and the five-year contract proposed by Snoqualmie "may sound good now," but it was a long time for a city contracting for a new service that might or might not work out.

Dave Workman's concern was accountability. "The county is accountable to you… the problem with taking the Snoqualmie contract is they'll be accountable to Snoqualmie," he said. "What we have now is direct accountability. It's very important. You can't put a price on that."

Jim Graham, a city resident for more than 40 years, said he was confused by the costs as put forth by the sheriff and the city of Snoqualmie, but added that his concern wasn't money, but the reliable response he's gotten in the past from the sheriff's office.

"I think we need to look at more than just costs," he said, adding "First you've got to pin those costs down."


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