Towns Stalled Over Price Of Police

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Two days after the Star Valley Town Council approved a $210,000 contract for law enforcement services through the Payson Police Department, the Payson Town Council rejected it.

According to the draft of an intergovernmental agreement between the two towns, Star Valley would have paid $210,000 for a year of police services from Payson.

That figure, Payson council members said, was too low and directed the town staff to go back to the negotiating table with Star Valley.

Payson Police Commander Don Engler said a proposal was given to Star Valley in January that would have added four officers to the department for $564,000.

Star Valley said that cost was financially impossible, and, in March asked for a second proposal.

The second proposal was for the Payson Police Department to add two officers for a cost of $210,000.

Councilor Mike Vogel wanted to know if the proposal would cover Payson's cost, and Engler said $210,000 would be for personnel and equipment, but nothing else.

"This is as basic as it could be," said Town Manager Fred Carpenter.

Vogel wanted to know how much the town would be subsidizing the contract in excess of the $210,000 coming from Star Valley.

"I do not think it is our job to subsidize the cost to another community," Vogel said.

Councilor Tim Fruth agreed.

"I definitely am not in favor of $210,000," Fruth said.

Fruth also wondered about the length of the contract (five years), and what it would mean if Payson hired two police officers this year, and Star Valley then backed out of the agreement.

The Gila County Sheriff's Office offered to provide police coverage to Star Valley for $361,000.

When asked if the PPD could provide better coverage at that amount, Engler said it helps anytime an officer or two is added to the force.

The police commander said the $210,000 that the Star Valley Council approved would have been for basic service.

However, he conceded, that if a serious incident occurred in Star Valley, it would be likely all officers on shift would be at the location.

Last year, Payson gave police service to Star Valley for $100,000.

Engler said the PPD took on another 2,500 residents without adding an additional officer.

Carpenter said he does not know how much Star Valley would pay, but would be willing to talk to them.

Councilor Su Connell said the cost should be more equitable, and added a lot of things can change in five years.

"We need to support and provide protection for Star Valley, but not at the loss to (Payson residents)," she said.

Councilor Andy Romance commended Star Valley for admitting it could not afford full police service, but also said Payson does not have a "blank check."

Mayor Bob Edwards said he assumes Star Valley's annual budget of $1.7 million does not go very far, mentioning the small town is likely in a financial bind.

He also said Thursday night that he would be willing to vote "yes" on the contract since Star Valley can only pay so much.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner said he respects Star Valley's dilemma, but added, the service being considered is less expensive than what residents of Payson are being charged.

"We are subsidizing," he said.

Edwards mentioned that if GCSO was to get the contract for Star Valley, the PPD would still be responding to serious calls.

Fruth said he does not want the PPD to ignore the minor calls in Star Valley if an agreement is reached, as a minor incident could escalate into a major event.

"You either provide the services or you don't," he said.

Engler said the cost or response time would be almost impossible to address.

"It is not a clear-cut mathematical solution," he said. "It basically is assigning to the best of your ability."

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