By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Amity delays public safety fee decision

AMITY — The police department can’t continue to operate the way it’s been run in the past, Chief Chris Bolek told the Amity City Council and residents at Wednesday night’s monthly meeting.

Bolek, who retired from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and was hired in Amity when longtime chief Dan Brown retired last year, claims residents are receiving a “bare minimum” level of service.

He believes the department, comprised of himself, Sgt. James Clark and six reserves, is making its best effort to keep citizens safe, but something has to change.

“It’s not fair and it’s not prudent,” Bolek said, regarding the minimal level of service the department is providing. “To mitigate liability, you have to invest, and it’s your (the council) decision regarding how you want to invest.”

A major portion of the meeting was dedicated to whether imposing a monthly public safety fee is a sound idea or not.

Discussions related to the state of the department arose during a 2018-19 goal-setting session and planning for the upcoming budget cycle, upon realizing the police department is understaffed and underfunded.

After analyzing the forecasted fiscal numbers and receiving a professional evaluation of the department’s needs, it became clear a decision was needed regarding the police budget; more funding is necessary to meet current policing standards, best practices and to better serve the public.

A public safety fee was determined to be the best option. Three choices were outlined:

Contract with the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services at a monthly cost of $3 per household. In that case, the city would receive the services of two full-time deputies, according to Sheriff Tim Svenson.

Retain the local police department at a cost of $15 per household, part of which might eventually be used to fund the cost of an additional full-time officer.

Retain the local force at a cost of $25 per household, part of which might eventually be used to add two additional full-time officers.

Residents would see the charge reflected on their monthly sewer/water bill as a separate line item. 

A survey informed the council what option residents prefer — or don’t prefer. None of the proposals drew a favorable response from the citizenry, telling the council residents don’t want to pay any more for services.

After receiving testimony from residents and department members, including Bolek and Clark, Councilor Max Walker made a motion to forego a decision and continue the discussion at the 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 6 meeting. It passed, 4-1, with Joshua Simonson casting the dissenting vote. Rudy van Soolen was not present.

Mayor Michael Cape praised Bolek for his efforts during his first few months on the job, including an immediate review of the department’s standing.

During the recent goal-setting session, Bolek identified deficiencies from an operations standpoint and researched costs to make improvements he felt necessary. There’s no money in the budget to cover those costs.

The department’s annual budget is $220,000, Cape said. Amity, Carlton and Yamhill run their own police departments. Amity’s budget is the lowest of the three. Yamhill is the next lowest at $360,000.

“We need to move our department forward,” Cape said. “How do we make that happen? How do we pay for what we want?”

Cape said Brown ran the department on an equally tight budget during his nearly 15 years as chief.

Before Bolek was hired, the council discussed the option to contract with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement services.

Dayton, Lafayette, Sheridan and Willamina are contract cities.

Residents who filled the previous town hall meeting made it clear they preferred Amity continue to operate its own police department as opposed to contracting with the sheriff’s office.

A proposal for service was presented to the council by Svenson. The contract was for $226,700, and would have provided two full-time deputies and responsibility for code enforcement.

Svenson, who did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting to promote the contract again, said the $226,700 would provide Amity with quality law enforcement service.

“Managing your own department costs a lot of money,” Svenson said. “The chief has done an outstanding job. I’m here to support the chief.”

Clark said he has the utmost respect for Svenson and the sheriff’s office. They’ve known each other for years. However, speaking as an Amity resident and city employee, he told the council that citizens don’t need a reminder of its preference to maintain its own police department. Mike Brandt, a member of the department’s reserve force, also emphasized to everyone in attendance that the council previously came to the same conclusion.

“We’re just trying to figure out what to do to keep our own police force,” said Councilor Dawn King, a member of the police committee.

Cape said Amity has taken pride over the years in operating its own police department.

Several residents, including Melissa Steele, expressed concern they are not being served as well as they would like by the department. One cited recent burglaries and a lack of patrol effort, particularly in the vicinity of schools.

Judy McMullen praised the police, thanking them for increasing patrols in the area of City Park, which has greatly improved the atmosphere.



Please. It's a tax.

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