Wednesday, October 31, 2007
GRANDVIEW - It's bad enough that three Grandview police officers are jumping ship for the Richland Police Department.
Three weeks ago officers gave Chief Dave Charvet a three-page document they all signed expressing safety concerns because the city of 9,000 people has only one officer on duty during the graveyard shift.
That's according to comments Charvet made last night during the city council's second 2008 budget study session.
Charvet told council there used to be two officers on duty overnight, but coverage was reduced to one when the city and the school district established a school resource officer.
Charvet noted that the city is not alone in losing officers to Richland, claiming that city has the highest pay for police officers and that even State Patrol officers are moving on to Richland's greener pastures.
Including the chief and his assistant, Grandview has 17 police officers and-according to the 2008 budget proposal-there are no plans to hire additional officers beyond replacements for the three who are leaving.
As for the issue of only one person on patrol overnight, Charvet figured it would cost an additional $75,000 each year to hire and outfit an extra night officer.
Councilwoman Jan McDonald asked if volunteer reserves could be used to help with the workload. Charvet said they could to an extent, but their responsibilities are more limited than a regular officer.
In addition, Charvet said the city would violate union agreements if it brought on too many volunteers and impacted how many officers are hired.
Police services account for about 40 percent of the city's $4.5 million general budget proposed for 2008. That's a good deal, Charvet pointed out, considering that law enforcement accounts for about 70 percent of the county's budget.
Proposed budget changes in the police department for 2008 include replacing two vehicles, adding a new voice recording system, two portable radios, two tasers, radar, computers and lockers.
Since the city typically gets little money for its used patrol cars, councilwoman Pam Horner asked if officers could utilize the used vehicles by taking them home with them and have on hand when emergency calls.
Charvet said the policy is already in place, with positive results. He said other police departments in the Valley have a similar policy and that it helps with morale and even with response time, since officers do not have to drive to the station and pick up a vehicle.
The department needs all the help it can get, Charvet says.
"It's an absolute zoo," he told council. "We booked 18 people over the weekend and we're jumping from call to call." Charvet added, "It's a lot different than it was a year ago."
He said crime rates are up all over the state, as well.
Mayor Norm Childress praised the work of Grandview's police, noting that in some westside cities police won't even respond on site to a fender bender or, in some cases, even burglaries.
Childress said that if citizens want rapid response times and an "officer around every corner" they have to be willing to pay for it.
"We have to decide what is an acceptable level of service," the mayor added. "You get what you pay for."
Council will resume budget discussions at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, just before its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m.
Childress told council members to be ready to discuss the possibility of changing city budget guidelines so there is an automatic hike in city fees each year in proportion to inflation. Currently all fee increases are written into the budget individually on a case-by-case basis.
"Our revenue goes up about 2 percent each year and our expenses go up 5 percent," Childress observed. "Some of that is inflation. We need some hedge against inflation."