Star Valley Council Studies Town's Law Enforcement Contract

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In a work session Tuesday, the Star Valley Town Council informally selected a committee to look at an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) the town plans to form with the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

The selection of the committee, according to Town Attorney Fredda Bisman, had to be done informally since it was not an agenda item.

Members of the council selected for the committee are Mayor Chuck Heron and council members Art Lloyd and Bill Rappaport.

The most heavily scrutinized piece of the agreement is a line item paying $21,000 to Gila County for an animal control officer.

Town Manager Lanny Sloan said he does not know how much time an animal control officer spends in Star Valley.

Heron said he has seen few instances where an animal control officer would be necessary.

Heron listens to a police scanner and has heard few instances of stray dogs roaming the town, but has heard of people getting bitten when entering yards.

According to the memorandum of understanding in the agreement, the county would collect all the fees involving animal control enforcement, including fines, fees and the $21,000.

Rappaport said he was opposed to this portion of the IGA.

"I don't like this," he said. "I think $20,000 to pay someone for a part-time job is ridiculous."

Rappaport said he would prefer to hire someone on an as-needed basis, and added he would have a tough time explaining to the residents of the town why the council approved this amount for a part-time job.

He wondered what would happen if someone was to hit an elk in the town limits. Rappaport said the town would probably be held liable.

"Why do we not take the responsibilities ourselves?" he asked.

Heron asked about the feasibility of Rappaport's idea, having the council pay someone on an as-needed basis.

Sloan said there is a possibility to pursue it.

Bisman advised the council that the IGA could possibly be written with a termination clause so the town would not be locked into something for a whole year.

Sloan said at the present time some of the memorandums of understandings have price tags attached, while others do not.

Heron said he would not like to go into the town's first fiscal year by giving the county a blanket contract.

Lloyd said the county is already providing service to the town at no cost.

"Anything we pay them is a windfall to the county," Lloyd said. "They are already doing it."

He said there is a strong likelihood, the town could find someone to provide some of the services at a lower cost.

The town has tentatively budgeted $112,000 for law enforcement.

Beyond contracting law enforcement, the council has several other things it needs to put in place before July, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Heron said the town has several ordinances and codes the council needs to study, discuss and put in place.

"I hesitate to go into July with no ordinances," he said.

Sloan said the council needs to proceed carefully.

"You don't want to rush into something that you will have to live with," the town manager said. "This is something the council needs to look at carefully."

After the work study session, the council met for its regular meeting. The only action taken was a unanimous vote to become a member of the Central Arizona Association of Governments for $600 a year.

Sloan said becoming a member of this organization is important, and said the town will get much more than $600 back in services.

He said the town will be doing lots of planning in the future and will be able to rely on CAAG for assistance.

"We will get our money's worth. I guarantee you that," Sloan said. "I know that it is money well spent."

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