CANYON CITY - The Grant County Sheriff's Department would patrol the streets and respond to incidents in Canyon City in exchange for $45,996 a year in revenue under a proposed policing agreement.
In the past, the John Day Police Department filled the role of Canyon City's police force. However, according to Canyon City leaders, a tight budget compels decision-makers to consider a cheaper alternative.
"This is not a question of service. It's dollars and cents," said Tammy Bremner, city manager for Canyon City, during the March 26 Grant County Court meeting.
Bremner said the rate for the John Day Police Department to police Canyon City increased from $79,054 last year to $82,000 this year.
"We simply don't have that money," she told the Grant County Court.
The alternate quote of $45,996 was developed by Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer after Bremner and Canyon City Mayor Don Mooney contacted him; Palmer said he also consulted with his staff and with county treasurer Kathy Smith to develop a cost estimate. The sheriff said he wanted to maintain a positive relationship with the John Day police and emphasized that he only responded to a request. However, he welcomed the chance to receive an infusion of money to hire an additional deputy. Palmer was blunt as he acknowledged that, in the absence of an agreement, his department likely would be responsible for law enforcement duties in the city regardless of funding ability.
"I'm afraid we're going to get stuck with it anyway," Palmer said of the law enforcement needs of Canyon City.
Bremner and Mooney said they have been offered a reduced-service contract from John Day of $60,000 a year. However, the city is confronted with shrinking state funding and the end of a timber sale that provided a one-time infusion of money into city coffers this fiscal year. The sheriff's agreement would last from July 1, 2003-June 30, 2005, paying $45,996 per fiscal year.
Grant County Judge Dennis Reynolds recommended that the county first decide about hiring another deputy and then look at ratifying the agreement. He preferred to postpone a decision by the County Court until commissioner Boyd Britton could vote; Britton was absent from the March 26 meeting due to health reasons. The issue is scheduled to come up at the meeting on Wednesday, April 2.
In other business:
The County Court received an update about a bridge project on Canyon Creek. A plan stretching back nearly a decade calls for building a new bridge at the base of Adam Road south of the Grant County Courthouse. Plans for the new bridge aim to eliminate a hairpin corner at the entranceway to the county road department headquarters; tentatively, the road department will move to west John Day and allow a less congested flow of traffic.
Surveyor Doug Ferguson of Mt. Vernon estimated that the project will cost about $380,000. Reynolds and roadmaster Ross Hodgson acknowledged that the budgeting of this work might need to be spread over two fiscal years due to the timing of instream work in August.
Commissioner Scott Myers, who lives northeast of the proposed bridge site, objected to the proposal based on both personal reasons and moreso because of safety concerns stemming from the intersection's location. A large, rock abutment nearby and limited visibility along Highway 395 might pose a safety risk to motorists using or approaching the intersection, he said.
However, Hodgson reported that the proposal has gained support among citizens, and Reynolds said that construction of a new bridge is backed by a host of considerations, including increased urban growth up Adam Road, congestion on Humbolt Street, and the deteriorating condition of a neighboring bridge to the south. This portion of the meeting was informational. Ferguson said the project is ready to go out to bid.
Reynolds and Myers agreed to contact a workshop presenter, Angus McIntosh of New Mexico State University, before authorizing county financial support for McIntosh to host a proposed local workshop about property rights in Grant County.
The request for the donation, Reynolds said, originated at a meeting concerning Revised Statute 2477 roads. The inquiry into RS2477 roads is a jurisdictional question that a county task force has launched in response to federal-land agencies' closures of public roads. RS2477 refers to a federal statute regarding late 1800s roads used for commerce and ostensibly owned by counties under certain circumstances.
Reynolds said he wanted to know more about McIntosh's familiarity with the specific issue of RS2477 jurisdiction. Myers agreed that the County Court should learn more about McIntosh's expertise on the issue before dedicating a county contribution toward paying his travel expenses.
In an emotional outpouring, Reynolds also voiced concern about local groups' expectations of the County Court when fighting for property rights.
"I'm growing concerned that certain groups in the county would have us do things that aren't necessarily legal under our oaths of office," he said, and he added, "We've been willing to push the law but not break it."
Reynolds described a backlash by certain individuals against his leadership, and he said, "I'm sadly disappointed in their lack of tolerance."