Updates on the search for new employees for the police department, the construction of the fire station and the budgets of Sunnyside’s police and fire departments were the main topics before the city’s subcommittee on public safety last night.
The search for a new police chief is active, and City Manager Don Day said the city has received nine applications so far. The city will continue accepting applications until Friday, March 14, at which point the staff will start to narrow down the candidates to three or four finalists.
Day said that, following procedures he has used in the past, he has not looked at any of the applications yet. He was unable to tell committee chairman Jason Raines if any of the applications were from existing employees or how many applications are from within Washington state.
Day said the city will have a list of finalists for the city council by early April, but did not want to name a specific date.
“Some of it will depend on how quickly extra material we request is returned to us,” he said. “But we expect to be ready in early April.”
In addition to a police chief, the city is also filling officer vacancies. Interim Director of Police Services Larry Dickerson said the city has been interviewing for two entry level positions.
The police department has also received a letter of retirement from longtime officer Chico Rodriquez, who will be retiring at the end of March. The city will not be replacing Rodriquez as his position was paid for with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Fire Chief Aaron Markham said the construction of the fire station is moving along with final completion due at the end of May. He said the station is within budget.
The fire department also had to have service done on one of its ambulances. The vehicle is now back in service.
Day also provided a quick update on the budget status as of the end of 2013 for the fire and police departments. In general, revenues were slightly lower than expected but most departments also came in slightly under budget meaning that the city is in fairly good financial shape.
Dickerson also reported to the committee on street lights, telling them that police officers have been watching for broken lights and reporting them to the public works department. More than 30 reports have been submitted by officers.
The meeting ended with a general discussion of how the state’s legalization of marijuana could affect public safety in Sunnyside, with an eye toward the committee making a recommendation to the council as a whole on the subject.
Committee member Craig Hicks said he is “dead set” against marijuana being allowed in town. Committee member Dean Broersma noted that the conflict between state and federal laws puts Sunnyside in a difficult place, legally.
Raines asked Day, Dickerson and Markham if they had ever been put in the position of violating federal law due to a state law. Dickerson said the closest he’s seen is when Olympia banned nuclear submarines, but noted that was a completely different situation.
As an example of the ineffectiveness of regulating a drug similar to marijuana, Day said that a recent check of the compliance of local businesses with alcohol laws discovered that five businesses out of 43 checked had problems.
Raines also brought up an incident in Colorado where a couple bought brownies containing marijuana and a two-year-old managed to get into the treat and eat quite a few of them. He asked if such incidents would put a burden on the city’s first responders. Markham said it is a potential problem as marijuana becomes more available.
The committee decided to return to the topic later and wrapped up with plans to meet next month on Monday, April 7, at 5:30 p.m. The location will be determined later.