The clock is ticking loudly in Carnation, which is less than three months away from losing police services. City officials and citizens recently learned that Carnation’s service, under a contract with the city of Duvall, ends Dec. 31 and their negotiations with the city on a new contract have been aborted.
“Friday morning, I got a call from (Duvall) Mayor Ibershof saying that they did not want to continue with negotiations and they would not provide service next year,” Carnation City Manager Ken Carter told the council at its Oct. 1 meeting.
The subdued council made few comments on the action, other than to authorize Carter to re-open negotiations with the King County Sheriff’s Office for services, and councilwoman Lee Grumman asked Mayor Jim Berger, representing the Public Health and Safety Committee, to ask the department about community oriented policing programs, and taking a proactive approach to community issues.
“I’m worried now…” Grumman said, about changing police services. Referring to a meeting that many council members had attended the previous evening on drug-use in the community, she said “We were already struggling with these problems before…”
Carnation had recently discussed contracting with King County, prompted by Duvall’s June 27 decision to not renew the police services agreement. Carter said the sheriff’s office was still open to negotiations, although meeting a Jan. 1 deadline was going to be challenging.
“Normally you need at least a half-year or more… gearing up for this,” Carter said, adding that sheriff’s office staff were “scrambling as much as we are scrambling.”
A police presence is only part of the issue. Carter said the city must also arrange for a prosecutor, a public defender, a domestic violence advocate and a jail, all services that were included in the Duvall contract.
“We will need to have separate contracts for all of these items in the next three months,” he told the council.
Another deadline looms even larger for the city though, and that’s 2015. Although the city was budgeting more than $500,000 for a 2014 police contract with Duvall, it lacked a clear and reliable source of funding for beyond that. The city’s uncertain finances were one of the reasons Ibershof cited in his recommendation to end negotiations.
Carter was frank about the finances when the council was discussing police options. The city had half-time coverage through Duvall, for $450,000 annually, but would need to pay much more in its next contract. King County had quoted a rate of more than $600,000 for a two-officer coverage contract for the city, and Duvall’s proposal required the city to maintain its previous 18-hour coverage level.
“In another year, you would have to go back to the voters…,” Carter told the council in August. “If you want to maintain this level of service for police, you’re going to have to go to the voters with a levy.”
Another possibility is a temporary car tab fee of up to $20. Although all revenue from the fee must go to street repairs, Carter said that revenue would free up money in the general fund that could then be used for public safety. The council has not discussed the possibility of the two-year fee yet, but that and other potential revenue sources, including a utility tax increase, are scheduled to be discussed at the council’s Tuesday budget work session.
Carnation contracted with the King County Sheriff’s Office prior to October, 2004, when the city entered an agreement with Duvall.