Washougal budget adds new police officer

Discussions regarding $29.7 million plan are set for Nov. 14

The hiring of a new officer for the Washougal Police Department is expected to reduce the number of calls that each officer responds to.

So far this year, there have been 16,545 calls. With 18 officers, that averages out to be 919 calls per officer, per year.

In 2010, there were 10,429 calls for service. In 2009, there were 8,245.

“This dramatic rise in calls, at the same time that our staffing has gone down, is cause for concern for the safety of the community and our officers,” Mayor Sean Guard said, during a City Council workshop last night.

Police Chief Ron Mitchell said this morning he is not certain of the reasons for the increase in calls.

“I’m sure the increase in population, poor economy and unemployment rate in Clark County and Portland are contributing factors,” he said.

A new patrol officer could start working for the WPD as early as Jan. 1, 2012, if Guard’s $29.7 million budget is approved.

Over the past two years, two police positions have been vacated through a resignation (Sgt. Kim Yamashita) and a medical retirement (Officer Tom Davis). Yamashita is the police chief in Sandy, Ore.

The preliminary budget includes an additional $12,000 to reclassify an administrative sergeant position to captain. The captain, a non-union position, could assist Mitchell with discipline or any other issues pertaining to the Police Officers Association.

The 2012 preliminary budget includes the use of $250,000 for parking improvements at Sandy Swimming Hole, $150,000 to replace the Hathaway boat launch and $50,000 to construct a board walk at Eldridge Park.

The budget includes $7,500 for the Children’s Home Society and $5,000 for the Washougal School District Community Education.

The 2011 budget included $12,500 for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, as well as more than $5,000 for impounding services. The 2012 preliminary budget does not include the $12,500.

“The animal control impound fees cover food and care for the dogs, but the city also wants us to be open to the public a certain number of hours and days per week.” WCGHS President Kimberly Mukobi said by email last night. “We have used the city contract monies — which used to be $25,000 — to pay two part-time employees to keep the WCGHS open to the public during those hours, thus continuing to serve the city.

“After having been cut by 50 percent for 2011, we have really worked hard to make up for the difference with additional fund raisers,” she added. “If we have to make up the other $12,500 for the coming year, it will be especially difficult to pay those employees and maintain regular hours open to the public. With the exception of the two part-time dog shelter employees, the rest of us are volunteers.”

Guard said after implementing the 2011 budget, Washougal holds reserves totaling 41 percent of the proposed 2012 general and street fund operating budgets.

“Reserves of 16 percent of the operating budget are required and restricted for internal cash flow purposes, per council policy,” he said. “The additional 25 percent reserves are unrestricted savings of more than $2.6 million, and there are currently no specified plans for the use of those funds.”

Before the end of this year, Guard is requesting council move $1.25 million of the unrestricted reserves to reestablish the Facilities Capital Fund and to create a Transportation Capital Fund.

The 2012 preliminary budget includes $200,000 for maintenance and repairs at City Hall and other facilities. There is also $130,000 for a sidewalk along Addy Street, to complete the connectivity of Hamllik Park to 32nd Street. The Transportation Capital Fund could also include $75,000 for design work to upgrade the intersection of Evergreen Way and 32nd Street.

A council budget work session is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. A public hearing and potential council approval of the budget are set for Monday, Nov. 21, also at 6 p.m. Budget decisions could be continued to Dec. 5 or 19.

A copy of the preliminary budget is available online at www.cityofwashougal.us. For more information, call City Hall at 835-8501.

Please review our community guidelines