Sheriff, Payson Seek To Protect Star Valley

Town council has two bids for police protection

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Star Valley residents will be paying nearly 50 percent more for police service under bids from the Payson Police Department and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.

Payson has offered the town a bid of $421,00, while the sheriff’s office will provide police protection for $383,000.

The two agencies presented their bids at a special work-study session Wednesday night at Star Valley’s Town Hall.

The new contract would take effect July 1.

The Payson Police Department has responded to calls in the small town since its inception three years ago.

Star Valley officials say they have abandoned the idea of forming the town’s own police department and are considering bids for a two-year agreement from both the sheriff’s office and PPD, now that the current contract with Payson is coming up for renewal.

The current contract with the PPD to provide basic police and dispatch services stands at $258,000. Payson Police Chief Don Engler said with the number of calls increasing every year, the cost of a new contract would rise to $421,000, an increase of 63 percent.

The sheriff’s office submitted a proposal of $383,000 a year.

So why a price discrepancy?

The PPD is figuring its price based roughly on the cost per capita and the number of calls, while the sheriff’s office is estimating the number of man-hours needed a year.

Engler estimates the cost per capita is arrived at by taking the number of Star Valley residents and dividing it by the price. For Star Valley that is $117 while in Payson it runs $245 per person, a difference of $128, Engler said.

Compare that to the cost per call, which is dividing the number of calls by the price, and Payson is paying slightly more at $182 per call compared to $178 in Star Valley.

“We would be asking $530,000 if we did it by per capita basis,” Engler said. “We are trying to negate the calls for service and per capita. If we did the calculation by per call it would be $263,000.”

So with a high and low price, the PPD calculated a middle figure taking into consideration that the number of calls increases every year. In fiscal year 2006-2007, PPD officers responded to 900 calls for service and 1,500 calls in fiscal year 2007-2008. For the first six months of fiscal year 2009, the department has already had 629 calls and with the busier summer months approaching, Engler predicts that number will double.

“So there has been a 63 percent increase in call load from the first year,” Engler said.

Star Valley Mayor Chuck Heron asked Engler if the town could sign a contract longer than two years with the department.

“We worry that we are subservient to the council,” Heron said.

Engler said the Payson Town Council still needs to approve this contract and he does not think it would be keen on a longer contract beyond two years.

Undersheriff Adam Shepherd presented a different contract based on the cost for half a patrol beat. The sheriff’s office breaks its costs down based on the patrol beats needed to cover an area. A beat is 24-hour protection seven days a week.

Shepherd said Star Valley is considered half a beat with an estimated 5 percent to 8 percent of all calls in the county coming from the town. He estimates per year personnel service costs to be $233,700 and administration, supplies and communication costs at $103,000 with $46,600 in overhead costs to total $383,000.

Two years ago when the sheriff’s office presented a similar proposal to Star Valley, the cost was 10 percent less at $345,000, Shepherd said.

There had been talk of Star Valley hiring its own officer to reduce some of the cost and strain on the PPD. Heron said the town is no longer considering hiring its own officer, even though the town has already purchased a new Ford Expedition as a patrol car. At Wednesday’s work-study, Town Manager Tim Grier suggested the vehicle might be converted to a squad car for the sheriff’s office or PPD.

Besides the difference in price, both contracts offer similar services. Neither would respond to animal noise complaints, but both would provide animal control if there was a threat to human life or animal cruelty. Neither will provide zoning and code enforcement.

PPD’s original contract also excluded patrol services; meaning officers would not visit the town unless called for a specific crime. In the years since the contract took effect, the department has provided some patrol services at Star Valley’s request, Engler said.

Shepherd said the sheriff’s office would provide the same level of service it provided before the town’s incorporation, including patrols.

“We have six guys that live in town, so you will get a patrol on the way home,” Shepherd said.

The council agreed to vote on a contract at the March 17 council meeting.

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