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Vader Council seeks coverage from Sheriff's Office

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Winlock has been taken out of the equation after the Vader City Council chose to pursue temporary law enforcement coverage from Lewis County during a special meeting Dec. 26.

As Warm Springs, Ore., Officer Lonny McEwen remains unable to entertain the position of Vader Police Chief, council members voted to ask for 30 days of coverage by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office starting Jan. 1 at a rate of $55 per hour with a three-hour minimum charge.

"We did allocate some funding—not a lot, but some—to cover callouts from outside," said Mayor Ken Smith, stating the rate was reduced from $75 per hour and would cover all calls for service.

It had previously been discussed by the council that a 2012 contract for police services through Winlock should be extended 60 days, giving time to iron out details related to the reforming of the Vader Police Department. The department was dissolved in November, 2011, after Sean Uhlich resigned as chief, and Winlock’s contract is set to expire midnight Dec. 31.

However, Smith said using Lewis County would be more appropriate than extending Winlock’s contract, citing a statement by Winlock Police Chief Terry Williams made Dec. 20 that a contract extension may not be feasible, as the Winlock City Council has yet to be approached with the idea and would not have another regular meeting until Jan. 14.

Williams had added Vader is in violation of the terms of the contract by not beginning renewal negotiations in September nor informing Winlock of their decision by Dec. 1. During the special meeting, Smith said he is mindful of taking action that may place the city in liability, but contended Vader is not currently in violation of the contract according to his understanding of its verbiage.

Smith added a contract with Lewis County will not be needed for their services, only a letter of intent from Smith. The council resolved he should write such a letter in a 3-0-1 vote, with Council Member Andy Wilson abstaining, stating he would prefer a 24-7 coverage option. (Council Member Rodney Allison was not present during the meeting, with Smith noting Allison had a scheduling conflict.)

Still finding hoops to jump through

Smith reported it has come to his attention a background check, polygraph test and psychological screening are required before a job offer can be extended to a potential officer, stating "haste" and "inexperience" played a role in the hiring process.

While these tests will not be as expensive as projected, totaling $550, according to Smith, they still pose an immediate cost to the city and are not expected to be complete until Jan. 3.

(It should be noted Wilson brought the issue of such tests before the council Sept. 4 and was met with no action from city leaders.)

Once McEwen passes the tests, Vader can offer him the position of police chief, allowing McEwen to submit his two-week notice to his current department, after which he can begin patrolling Vader.

To get the testing started, the council voted to designate Smith as administrator for McEwen’s background check, the results of which are required for the polygraph and psych evaluation. Though this duty is normally performed by the police chief, city ordinance allows the council to designate a stand-in should the chief be unavailable. The vote was 3-0-1, with Council Member Janet Charlton abstaining, stating she is personally acquainted with McEwen.

But McEwen is also still anticipating the formation of a law enforcement cooperative prior to becoming chief, involving the departments of Napavine, Winlock, Toledo and Vader. Smith reported Dec. 4 he has been developing the concept of a cooperative with his fellow mayors and stated he continues to receive support.

"They’re still all on board," said Smith, adding any cooperative agreement would be the ultimate decision of legislative bodies, not executives. "The mayors are not going to decide it, the city council people will."

Wilson said, in his past experience as both a council member and mayor of Vader, cooperatives are not successful because larger cities feel smaller cities receive an inequitable benefit, adding he remains opposed a cooperative.

Others, such as Council Member Lois Wilson, said they are excited at the prospect of receiving added coverage from the surrounding communities, stating she was pleased to hear a draft agreement from City Attorney Jim Buzzard is still expected by the end of December.

Once completed, the draft could be presented for approval to all four councils as soon as Jan. 14.

"We’ll get together and massage it," said Smith of the approval process, adding McEwen has agreed to be patient with local officials and remains intent on moving to and serving within the area.

The next Vader City Council meeting will be Friday at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations can call (360) 295-3222.

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