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Earlier report of cuts to Sunnyside Police Department much rosier now

Prior to Tuesday night's Sunnyside City Council budget study session, life at the Sunnyside Police Department looked pretty grim for 2005.

City Manager Bob Stockwell released a memo at the beginning of November that detailed where proposed budget cuts would be made in 2005 to help offset a $393,910 revenue shortfall.

One of the areas that was proposed in the 2005 budget to help save money was not filling four positions at the police department, three of which were vacant at the time.

But thanks to voters in Yakima County passing a 3/10's of 1 percent sales tax with the money to go towards law and justice county-wide, the Sunnyside Police Department has found new life.

Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder Tuesday night outlined his plans for utilizing the money from the county sales tax in the coming year.

In all, the Sunnyside Police Department has four vacancies-one vacancy in the corrections department, one from the death of Sgt. Steve Evans and the other two from two patrol officers leaving for other positions.

"No one currently employed is going to be losing their jobs," said Radder.

Radder told Council he wants to use the county tax money to hire an officer at the beginning of the year. This will allow the department to retain the traffic officer position, which is currently being held by Kent Coffman. Without hiring an additonal officer at the beginning of the year, Coffman's services would have had to be used elsewhere in the department to cover vacancies.

"We believe that is an important enough function," said Radder.

In the middle of the year, Radder plans to hire another officer in hopes of providing the detectives division with some additional assistance. Also at mid-year, Radder plans to create an administrative secretary position, replacing a data entry person that will be leaving.

The proposed law enforcement budget for 2005 is $2.1 million.

The major expenditure in this department is salaries, $1.2 million.

Stockwell told Council Tuesday night about a plan he has to lease police vehicles in 2005. As a result, Council was able to take $35,000 from the $163,760 set aside in the line item for other services and charges. The $35,000 will now go to help operate the Sunnyside Community Center, said Stockwell.

One significant expenditure in the law enforcement budget deals with overtime. For 2005, Radder has set aside $92,000 for overtime, which is up considerably from $56,420 in 2004. The 2004 amount was based in part on a strong desire by Council to reduce the overtime budget. In 2003, the police department had an overtime budget of $103,395. Radder said his overtime budget is based on past usage. The most difficult problem with overtime in the police department, said Radder, is having to fill positions when staff members are gone. Radder said the amount being set aside for overtime is still less than it would cost to hire people for the actual positions.

Of the 34 current staff members at the police department, Radder said 22 of those are commissioned officers. The police department is currently at staffing levels for officers that it had in 1991, the chief told Council.

Councilman Don Vlieger said he was worried about how overtime would be affected once the new dispatch center at the law and justice center is completed by the middle of next year. Radder said overtime will be a concern at the new center.

However, the city will be having some new revenue from housing prisoners that will assist in paying for overtime expenses, said Radder. The United States Marshal Service is closing some of its locations around the state and will now be using the Sunnyside jail to house prisoners.

Vlieger was also concerned with the city's involvement with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), a program operated by the Washington State Patrol. . The police department currently dedicates one office to working with HIDTA. Radder said there is benefits to the partnership, such as having an officer working with HIDTA on a full-time basis. Vlieger wanted to see what kind of cost benefits there is to the city to continue this partnership.

Vlieger was also curious about the partnership the city has with the school district for funding the two school resource officers. Radder said the school district has increased its funding for the positions to $100,000 annually. The city pays about one-third of the costs to have the officers in the schools. The police department gets the services of the two officers back during the summer months. Radder said an issue is that during the summer months, the officers usually take their vacation, so there is no real benefit to the city.

The budget for the corrections department is a separate item. The proposed 2005 corrections department budget is $537,410, which is an increase from the $516,010 budgeted in 2004. The increase in the budget comes under the line item for supplies, which increases from $97,300 in 2004 to $157,500 in 2005. Captain Phil Schenck said the primary expenses in supplies are the meals for prisoners and cleaning supplies. Schenck said the corrections budget is a conservative estimate of where it should be.

The proposed communications department budget at the police department is $492,190 for 2005. This budget covers the dispatching services.

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