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Council looks at how best to spend new criminal justice tax

GRANDVIEW - Although voters just recently passed Proposition #1, which implements an additional 3/10's of a penny sales tax increase in Yakima County to help support the area's criminal justice system, voters are already looking for results.

Monday night, Grandview City Councilwoman Helen Darr noted that she has already received a phone call from a voter asking if they can expect to see more Grandview police officers on the streets starting Jan. 1, 2005.

City Administrator Jim Sewell noted that the county is not going to be able to start collecting the new sales tax until April, with cities not receiving any funding until June.

City Treasurer John Myers added that since collection won't begin until several months into 2005, the city will not receive its full allotment the first year. He said in 2005 the city can expect to receive between $90,000 and $95,000 from the new criminal justice tax.

Mayor Mike Bren said since the tax won't be collected until spring, the city should probably wait to hire anyone new. He explained that if the city hires a new police officer in January, the city will end up paying that person's salary. City Councilman Norm Childress added that if the city hires a new police officer before the funding arrives, it might be considered that the officer is a regular staff member and not qualify for Proposition #1 funding.

The Council also voiced concerns about hiring a new police officer, noting that if they have to send the officer to the policy academy it could be a year before citizens actually see the new hire out on the streets.

Councilman Robert Morales asked why there is such an urgency to begin spending the funds. He noted that the Grandview Police Department has sat with 16 officers for a number of years. Instead, he felt that the city should take some time to figure out where the gap is in the City's current police service, and where the money really needs to be spent.

"The urgency I feel is a lot of the time the city only has one officer on duty through the night," said Councilwoman Pam Horner. She added that crime continues to grow in the community. "That's my sense of urgency," she said.

Sewell noted that the recommendation to hire another officer came from Police Chief Dave Charvet. He added that Council has the final decision has to how the funds from the criminal justice tax are spent.

Childress also pointed out that he feels its important that the city not look like it's sitting on its hands and not moving forward with something the taxpayers want.

"People are expecting something quickly," Darr said.

Council members noted that they would like to invite Charvet to attend a council meeting in order to discuss how the city will spend the funds that will be coming in thanks to Proposition #1.

"There really are a lot of considerations," Sewell said.

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