Sheriff offers $250k for Winlock coverage; council expected to choose Monday night

Stephen Floyd

The Winlock City Council has said they are intending to select a long-term law enforcement option during a special meeting Monday after having received an estimate for such services from the Lewis County Sheriff's Office.

Discussed during a regular meeting of the council May 27, officials said they expect to decide Monday night between hiring their own chief or contracting with another agency, such as the Sheriff's Office or the City of Toledo, in anticipation of the retirement of Police Chief Terry Williams on June 30.

A contract with Toledo had been highlighted as an option during a public forum held by the council May 20, during which time only preliminary information was available regarding possible services from the Sheriff's Office. On May 27, Sheriff Rob Snaza formally presented an offer of $250,000 per year for 24/7 coverage by a team of deputies assigned to patrol the area of Lewis County between Napavine and Vader, with a minimum three-year commitment.

"I will support the decision of this council, and I will back up whoever runs this agency," said Snaza of the options before the city, stating he feels the discussion, overall, should revolve around what officials desire to see out of law enforcement in the city, rather than simply finances.

"I do not want the City of Winlock to lose its identity and who they are," he continued, stating he is aware of the potential cultural impact losing the police department would have on Winlock.

When discussing details of Snaza's proposal, City Attorney Erin Hillier pointed out the offer from the Sheriff's Office would eliminate Winlock Municipal Court, as all misdemeanors and infractions would instead be routed through Lewis County District Court, while deputies would be expected to enforce state and county law, but not specifically Winlock law.

Snaza said, of the codes within most cities in Lewis County, they already conform with state and county laws and his deputies would continue being able to make arrests and issue citations, and added his office would utilize District Court instead because it would make enforcement simpler, as a single set of documents and rules would be applied.

"We find that it's better just to go through District Court," he said.

Hillier said she would speak with City Prosecutor Amanda Vay and confirm if Winlock has officially opted to follow state codes in their ordinances, stating, if this is the case, she does not foresee difficulty in the Sheriff's Office enforcing Winlock laws.

Snaza also stated, if the city so chose, his office would be willing to cover all costs related to jail, court, dispatch and prosecution, which the previous offer did not include, for a flat rate of $300,000 per year. Snaza acknowledged this was a costly offer, especially considering Winlock spent around $250,000 on all police services last year, but said the benefits of having a large staff of deputies at the city's disposal, as well as the ability to begin coverage immediately, should be weighed against the financial costs.

Snaza's offer compares to a proposal from Toledo for 20-hour per day patrol coverage for $196,000 per year, with a remaining $54,000 per year in non-transferable expenses Winlock would still be expected to pay from their general budget, according to City Clerk Theda Curry. Curry said, with regard to the offer from the Sheriff's Office, the sum of these non-transferable expenses was not immediately available, as she would need to factor in the costs for and revenues generated by Municipal Court, among other factors, as Municipal Court would be dissolved through a contract with the Sheriff's Office.

Council Members did not speak in favor of or against the proposal from Snaza, with such discussions expected to take place during their special meeting Monday at 5 p.m. in City Hall.

Also expected to be discussed during the meeting is the current state of law enforcement in the city, with Mayor Lonnie Dowell reporting Officer Josh Goeffina, the city's remaining full-time officer aside from Williams, has accepted a position with another agency and is expected to leave prior to June 30. Hillier said the city has the option to recall vacation time Williams was intending to use before his official retirement date, as well as seek out an interim chief through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, of which Williams is a member.

Both Toledo and the Sheriff's Office have offered their services to Winlock if there is a need for police response prior to the selection of a long-term option, though each would need to charge the city an hourly fee in doing so.