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North Bend moves ahead with Snoqualmie police contract

North Bend's switch to Snoqualmie for police services was all but official this week. Snoqualmie's Public Safety Committee and City Council both need to review and approve the latest revisions to the cities' interlocal agreement, but the North Bend City Council's action Tuesday, Sept. 4, was official enough to start the clock on the transition.

The following day, the city gave notice to the King County Sheriff's Office that North Bend would cancel its contract with them, effective in 18 months, and at the next regular meeting of the council, they will look at the costs of adding to the city's planned coverage under the Snoqualmie contract.

"A couple of council members wanted to make it clear to the community is that this isn't about cost-cutting measures," explained City Administrator Londi Lindell, and several suggested taking the expected savings from the sheriff's contract and using them to hire an additional officer patrolling the city at all times. Currently the city has one deputy in city limits and one in the unincorporated areas, providing mutual backup. The ILA as approved provides the same one officer patrolling North Bend, but allows the city to expand its coverage, at the added annual cost of $143,000 per officer.

North Bend's current level of service was a much-debated topic in the months leading up to the Aug. 21 decision to pursue a contract with Snoqualmie, and it was again at this meeting. Councilman Dee Williamson, who voted with Jeanne Pettersen, Jonathan Rosen and Ross Loudenback, to make the switch, asked staff members to describe, in terms of officers available, the differences in models for the city.

The current flex model, of one officer in the city, one outside, was considered inadequate by the full council. Snoqualmie's dedicated model gave North Bend one officer in the city with up to three available for backup, and the modified-dedicated model proposed by King County would give the city   up to two officers in the city, and one available for backup.

Some council members didn't fully understand the modified-dedicated model proposal, so North Bend Police Chief described how he would have implemented it. The model would give the city six dedicated officers for patrolling North Bend, plus a credit of .9 of a deputy because of the department's shared patrolling responsibility with the unincorporated areas of North Bend.

"If you were to bump this (contract) up to a modified-dedicated, you would have two in the city… and you'd still have one outside," Toner said. However, he added, "I would encourage the council to encourage these deputies to roam a little bit further than just the city limits, because we don't want to be an isolated silo here. We want to know where the bad guys are on both sides."

Councilmen who voted against the change to police services, as well as against the ILA Sept. 4, had been in favor of the modified-dedicated model, but were in the minority. They were Alan Gothelf, Ryan Kolodejchuk, and David Cook.

The terms of the ILA, as approved by North Bend's council, are for a five-year contract, with 18 months notice required for either party to terminate the contract or opt against renewing it. Two years before the end off the contract, Snoqualmie will provide North Bend with an estimate of its "fully-loaded" cost per officer, which will be the basis of the next contract's cost estimates, plus an increase of 3 percent.

"Fully loaded would mean it would cover their costs of providing that service," said Lindell, adding that neither city intends to profit from the arrangement.

The contract also specifies that the cities were mutually protected by insurance, and legally, from the other cities actions, should any lawsuits or other conflicts arise.

Cost of the contract, which will take effect March 8, 2014 and be renewed annually in January, will be $1,039,670 for 2014, $1,284,000 for 2015, $1,324,000 for 2016, $1,362,000 for 2017, $1,402,000 for 2018, and $240,677 for the remainder of the five-year term, from Jan. 1, 2019 to March 7, 2019.

North Bend will also pay $384,000 in startup costs to the city of Snoqualmie, in two installments, to enable the department to hire and equip the six new officers and one new administrative staff member needed for the contract. North Bend currently has two administrative staff members at the substation,  both city employees rather than county employees. Office Manager Kym Smith will be hired to the new Snoqualmie administrative position if she applies for it, according to the ILA. Erin Mitchell is a half-time employee who will likely lose her position.

Regarding the North Bend substation, North Bend sent the required 12-month notice to terminate its lease on the building in June, and Londell expects the city will be able to rent it on a monthly basis for the remainder of the sheriff's contract. Alternately, she said, the department could be moved into the old fire station, since the new facility is expected to be ready for use by mid-July next year.

 

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