Snoqualmie residents speak out at council meeting

SNOQUALMIE - Though the Snoqualmie Police Department presentation was canceled for the April 25 City Council meeting, scores of residents showed up anyway to voice their opinions on the city's recent effort to gather information regarding contract police services with the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO).

After the hour-long public comment session was closed residents continued to hammer the council with comments, some even queuing at the microphone for a second chance to speak.

Residents repeatedly implored the council to table the issue of contracting with KCSO - despite the fact that no motions were on the table.

Gail Key was just one resident present at the standing-room only meeting who felt the council should make some sort of commitment to keep the Snoqualmie Police Department intact. She said when her family lived in Sammamish for 20 years they were the victims of a hit-and-run accident, and that contracted police from the county showed up an hour after they were called.

"I need your eyes, I need you to listen," she told council members. "I was here at the meeting on the [March] 28. They [KCSO] said something that irked me - that response time was 4-6 minutes. I think this issue should be tabled tonight."

Jack Webber, a former North Bend City Councilman spoke on that city's experience contracting with the KCSO.

"In the six years we contracted with King County, there's not a year that went by that we didn't say, 'Is this what we need to be doing?'"

Webber presented a list of factors he thought council members should keep in mind before signing a long-term police contract with KCSO.

"The contract, when you get down to it, is with the King County Council ... Costs are negotiated with the King County Council. They negotiate based on county variables, not local variables. The level of service ends up being defined by the county," Webber said. "When the county [proposed to allow] a [state] sexual predator site in North Bend, that told me the definition of safety in the county did not match that of North Bend." Webber spoke of a failed attempt by the state to build a halfway house for sexual offenders outside North Bend that was approved by the county.

Council members agreed that while chances are slim that they will ever decide to dissolve the Snoqualmie Police Department, they need to come up with some sort of plan B to deal with the increasing costs of city police. To do that, they must look at all the information available, said councilman Nate Short. "Why would you want your public officials to make decisions when they don't have full information? Everybody has their giving point. If you had to pay $1,000 per person what would that be? Is this an unlimited number?"

Not for Brent Lutz, one of only two residents who stated they felt the council was on the right track by gathering information regarding police costs.

"It's irresponsible not to look at other options," Lutz said. "We're going to find that the police aren't going anywhere."

In the end, council members did not table discussion on the police department or send the issue back to the public safety committee as some had suggested. Instead, the council will hear Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaffer's presentation on police services May 9 at 7:30 p.m., following the 6 p.m. annual Town Hall Meeting/Root Beer Float Social. Both events will take place in the new fire station's bay area, 37600 S.E. Snoqualmie Parkway.

At a special roundtable discussion from 6-7 p.m. during the May 23 regular council meeting, councilman Greg Fullington will present the information he has researched on police services.

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