Winlock has begun looking at options to contract out police services as a way of reducing city expenses, and have so far ruled out the Lewis County Sheriff's Office as a possibility.
First proposed during the council's Oct. 27 meeting, Council Member Aaron Mummert said depending on a nearby agency for law enforcement rather than Winlock's department could free up a significant amount of money in the city's general fund, as a preliminary proposal for the 2015 budget includes $252,000 set aside for police services.
"This city has been struggling financially for quite a while," he said, stating the intent was not simply to find a cheaper alternative, but an alternative able to at least match present services levels, which include 80 hours of scheduled coverage per week and 24-7 on-call coverage. "If we're going to save $20,0000 but we're losing four hours a day, to me that's not reasonable."
Mummert said in an interview Friday an informal proposal from the Sheriff's Office of $65 per hour for patrol and emergency response coverage does not meet such criteria, as 80 hours of weekly patrols alone at such a rate would cost around $270,000 per year.
"That's just not feasible," he said, stating the proposal had been calculated based on a contract the Sheriff's Office currently has with the City of Vader for $55 per hour for coverage, noting the rate offered to Winlock had been higher because of factors including its larger size as a community.
Mummert said Winlock is now expecting to approach Napavine and Toledo to learn what rate they would be able to offer, but said Winlock is not expecting to move forward on the issue until hearing back from City Attorney Erin Hillier, who said she would research the union contract applying to the Winlock Police Department to learn if alternative services would be allowed in the first place.
When the issue was brought before the council on Oct. 27, most officials did not indicate if they were for or against seeking service elsewhere, but said they at least wanted to research the idea.
"It's not harmful to gather information," stated Council Member Barbara Pedersen during discussions about the proposal.
When Mummert moved for the council to support researching law enforcement alternatives, the motion passed 3-1-1, with Council Member Sam Patrick, an officer with the Toledo Police Department, abstaining due to possible conflicts of interest, and Council Member Jerry Rader voting against the motion.
Rader said, in regard to previous discussions between Winlock and nearby cities to contract for police coverage, he feels it would not be worth the effort to look into the idea, stating they would likely not find a viable alternative.
"What I'm looking at is past history telling me something like that--or any other town trying something like that--it's never worked," he said.
On Friday, Mummert said he is not certain when the council will discuss the issue next, as information from Hillier and others will need to be acquired before conversations can continue. It is presumed the council will make a decision by the end of the year to meet deadlines for approval of their 2015 budget.
When approached for his department's perspective on the issue, Winlock Police Chief Terry Williams stated he has not been a part of discussions regarding contracted services and noted he had not been aware of Mummert's proposal prior to the meeting. He added officials have not told him they are displeased with current service levels.