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Cities may extend police coverage a year to study issue


The police issue between Grand Coulee and Electric City took a number of twists and turns this past week.

Electric City had threatened to walk away from extending its law enforcement contract with Grand Coulee and develop its own police department.

That ended last Thursday evening when two council members from Electric City — John Nordine and Aaron Derr — and two council members from Grand Coulee — David Tylor and Erin Neilson — got together and developed a plan that could eventually lead to a combined police department.

Grand Coulee’s initial proposal to Electric City, a $209,000 annual charge, was dead on arrival. That led to Electric City’s plan to go it alone.

But the four negotiators came up with a plan to extend the police contract for one year at $115,000, and take that year to jointly try to come up with a combined police department, controlled by some type of committee of council members from the two cities.

Tuesday night that idea got traction at Electric City’s council meeting with a pledge to move ahead with the plan and with council action to ask residents for a property tax levy of 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to finance that city’s part in a joint police department.

Council agreed to have a public community meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at the fire hall so residents could express their views on a public safety levy. The council will meet after the public meeting to make a decision as to whether or not to go for a levy.

That issue then would be on the Aug. 5 primary ballot. If the levy passes it would raise about $200,000 to finance the city’s share of a joint police department.

Grand Coulee Councilmember Erin Neilson said the Thursday meeting went well and the level of cooperation was high. One of his Electric City counterparts, Aaron Derr, said the meeting was “friendly and cordial,” and that “all four wanted to see the communities work together.”

It will be Grand Coulee’s turn to air the plan before its full council on July 15.

Coulee Dam offered to help seek a solution when it looked like the two cities wouldn’t find common ground.

In a letter to Electric City, Coulee Dam Mayor Greg Wilder suggested that maybe his town could provide police services and left the door open for negotiations.

Wilder wrote: “The Town of Coulee Dam is willing to discuss working with Electric City for the provision of police services. We view the shape of an agreement and/or the governance for such a partnership without prejudice … that is to say, we have not defined (even to ourselves) the shape of such a relationship, organizational structure, or governance. Furthermore I believe that all four cities/towns should be engaged in consolidation talks for all of our life-safety operations — police, fire and ambulance/EMS services.”

Currently, Coulee Dam has only two police officers, with a third to be hired after the town gets its Civil Service Commission in place.

Details of how the joint police operation would work lay in the future. The agreement to extend the contract one year gives the two cities about 18 months to finalize and execute a plan.

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