Revised budget plan and citizen help may save GFPD
The Granite Falls City Council discussed revised budget projections and heard about a citizen pledge drive to keep the city’s police force intact, at a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 26.
The Council is considering dismantling the local police department, and contracting with Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO).
The proposed contract would replace the current guarantee of a police officer patrolling the City’s 1.7 square mile area with that of a sheriff’s deputy responsible for a 60 square mile area that includes Granite Falls who may, or may not, be patrolling the city at any given time.
There were concerns among many citizens in attendance that the resulting change introduced by outsourcing the city’s police services would have a significant (negative) impact on response times and other related issues.
“There is no question that level of service, response times, community presence and knowledge, and so on is superior with our police department. The SCSO deputies are excellent too, but the City can only afford the barest minimum coverage with the county,” said Catherine Anderson, one of many residents who spoke in favor of keeping the police department.
Under a revised budget plan, the City of Granite Falls would move to a staffing level of four officers, one less than they currently have.
By doing so, it will cost the City less money than a county contract, and over the same five year period, nets the City over $330,000 while response times remain the same.
The second scenario involves keeping the staffing level at five officers, and coming up short by approximately $69,000 each year in the same period.
Ken Shefveland, the president of the Pilchuck Foundation (and a Granite Falls reserve police officer), proposed another solution.
He stated the Pilchuck Foundation would more than meet that shortage with a citizen driven pledge campaign.
The monies would be made available to the police department in the form of an unrestricted grant for training and equipment. The Pilchuck Foundation was established to provide funding for the city’s public safety departments, as well as youth scholarships.
Anderson explained the idea, stating: “…Citizens help fund the non-salary expenses, like fuel costs, officer training and equipment. So, if the Council votes to save our force, the Pilchuck Foundation will be asking for pledges to help with costs, and sustain and support our officers...”
She gave the Council a detailed timeline of the pledge campaign, planned to launch at the town’s upcoming Railroad Days October 6.
She admitted that if the Council votes to demolish the police department, the pledge campaign drive will be moot.
“I’ve been following this discussion for over a year, and knowing that the Council now has a viable solution to keep our Granite Falls Police Department intact, plus work with the community to pitch in, there is no reason to even consider the contract.”
Shefveland expressed some doubts about the Council’s commitment.
“I can’t help feeling that the Mayor and certain Council members, perhaps for the sake of expediency, just want to get rid of the town’s police department, regardless of the cost. Further, not only do they appear willing to spend more money for less service, but as Councilman Golston noted, they are ignoring the very real unintended consequences of such a decision that of increased crime, neighborhood blight, etc. I don’t understand that, because it’s clear the citizens want to keep their force and they certainly don’t want to pay more money for an inferior level of service,” she said.
He said he hopes people will write, email, or call the Councilmembers to reinforce retaining the police.
The Council is expected to make their decision at their October 3 meeting.