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Police dispute kicked upstairs


A flap over law enforcement coverage at the Bureau of Reclamation has attracted the attention of its regional director.

Recently the city of Grand Coulee was awarded a four-man contract, a renewal of an existing agreement, to provide police services on the project, leaving Coulee Dam, which had had a similar contract, out in the cold.

That could change this week with Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Lorri Lee in town, presumably to meet with interested parties and get things back to normal.

Coulee Dam Police Chief Pat Collins said he had a meeting scheduled sometime Wednesday with Lee. He said he didn’t know what the subject would be.

After Grand Coulee was awarded its contract and Coulee Dam wasn’t, Coulee Dam had to lay off officers associated with its project coverage. One of these officers now works for Grand Coulee and a second officer has applied for a position there.

Collins took the issue one step further last week when he revoked permission for Grand Coulee officers to work within the town limits of Coulee Dam, where much of the bureau area to be covered in the $1.6 million, three-year contract with Grand Coulee.

That immediately got everyone’s attention.

The matter of coverage came up at the Grand Coulee City Council meeting last week as Police Chief Mel Hunt told the council that the Bureau asked if Grand Coulee could supply another four officers.

He told the council that it wasn’t possible unless the Bureau gave the city “ramp up” time -- that is, time to get applicants through the academy and qualified. He said the earliest the city could do so would be July, 2014. Hunt explained that it was difficult to get qualified officers to come to Grand Coulee because the wage structure is lower.

“The only agency I know of that could immediately supply four officers would be Grant County, and the cost would be substantially higher than what we charge,” Hunt stated.

Grand Coulee’s contract with the USBR covers one year with provisions for additional years at a cost of just over $500,000 each year.

The decision by Coulee Dam to withdraw its permission for Grand Coulee officers to operate within Coulee Dam town limits has caused a stir between the two departments.

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