Citizens raise concerns of lost identity, local control

Two Troutdale city councilors — Rich Allen and Eric Anderson — will join other city officials on a team to begin negotiating the terms and conditions of an agreement with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to contract police services with Troutdale.

Sheriff Dan StatonCitizens had a chance to raise their concerns at the Troutdale City Council meeting Tuesday, May 13, before the council unanimously passed a resolution to approve “the proposed concept for contracted law enforcement services with the Multnomah County sheriff” and authorize “negotiation of an intergovernmental agreement.”

The resolution is not a final decision, but rather a “commitment” to move forward with negotiations. The mayor made clear the city could end the negotiation process anytime if councilors felt the outcome would not be a “win-win-win” for Troutdale.

Some big concerns for citizens were echoed among councilors, such as the desire to maintain Troutdale’s identity and local control, and the need for performance standards for officers.

A couple of people also voiced a strong distrust in Multnomah County’s board of commissioners, a concern Councilor Norm Thomas said he also shared.

By the end of the meeting, councilors seemed optimistic that any remaining concerns they had of the sheriff’s proposal could and would be addressed in the negotiating process of the agreement.

“I think I could entertain supporting this resolution because I’ve been convinced that it’s necessary to get something in writing that spells out all the issues that concern me,” Councilor David Ripma said.

While Ripma had no doubt Troutdale officers would benefit from the consolidation, he said he had doubts about the improved levels of police services and where the city would see the savings.

Ripma asked for the estimated savings — from $800,000 the first year of the proposed contract to $1.1 million in following years — to be spelled out in the resolution as part of the city’s findings.

“That would be the reasons for the citizens of Troutdale to support this,” he said. “That would be the reason I’d vote for it.”

Anderson said, “I love what the proposal says; now let’s put it into (a) contract.”

As for the promises of better services and cost savings, Anderson said, “We’ve got guesstimates right now. I want to get to the point where we have actuals, and then we will see where we go from there.”

“I’m not exactly sure if this is a good idea or bad idea, but we’ll see what happens,” Thomas said.

Wording in the resolution was amended to include “potential substantial cost savings of approximately $1 million per year.”

The council also agreed to create a subcommittee that would involve two councilors in the negotiation process. Allen and Anderson said they’d be honored.

The city manager, finance director and city attorney (if needed) also would be involved in negotiations and presenting the agreement to the council for final consideration.

According to the resolution, the city would “seek a contract target implementation of July 1” of this year for “the initial phase of the contracted services.”

The council held two public work sessions at the city’s police station April 1 and May 6, in which police leaders laid out details of the proposal.

Many questions councilors and the public raised on May 6 were answered in the May 13 staff report.

On Tuesday night, May 13, the council heard from several people who shared their thoughts and concerns.

Joe Carlson, a Troutdale resident since 1985 and a member of the city’s public safety advisory committee, said he supports the plan. “I think it’s been well presented to us on the committee. I think it represents a very good option for the city from a financial standpoint and a public safety standpoint.”

A Gresham man, Jay Ellis, who does business in Troutdale, said, “I think the chief is already doing an awesome job. I personally feel safe in Troutdale.”

Ellis said he respects the council, mayor and police chief for being proactive and looking for a cost-effective way to lessen the financial burden on the citizens. But he said he also loves the independence of Troutdale: “I just want to keep Troutdale’s identity.”

Ray Walls, who said he moved to Troutdale to escape the congestion of Portland, agreed with Ellis and said it was important the city keep its identity. He also questioned the need for a high number of police cars in Troutdale and felt the ratio of officers to sergeants seemed excessive.

If consolidation occurs, Police Chief Scott Anderson said there will be six patrol officers to one sergeant, not one to two. He also emphasized that not having a sergeant inside the city limits at all times is a liability issue.

Bruce Watson, a Troutdale resident since 1980, expressed his distrust in Multnomah County commissioners.

“I have confidence the county sheriff will do a professional job and would live up to the agreement the city would enter into,” he said. “It is the county commissioners that concern me. What if the county … decides not to provide services … because they are short on money?”

Watson went on to criticize county leadership’s recent “backdoor” dealings and said he does not believe the city of Troutdale should “get in bed with this kind of leadership.”

Sheriff Dan Staton said he understood Watson’s concerns.

“Once a contract is developed, the sheriff has to abide by that contract. The board of county commissioners cannot enact or intercede on operational issues that are developed in the contract,” Staton said.

“They are receiving funds for a contract developed between myself and the city of Troutdale. Those funds have to go through the general fund and back to the sheriff for services.”

Staton said the contract dollars cannot be used by any capacity by the county.

“Those funds are locked into place,” he said.

Mayor’s statement

Doug Daoust“I’ve thought about this a lot,” said Mayor Doug Daoust, who spoke last during the council’s deliberation Tuesday. “And I’ve heard from citizens of both sides.”

Daoust said the facts should eliminate the emotional arguments — the identity issue, the territorial response, lack of trust in county commission — but they don’t always.

“The agreement, though, can and will specify maintaining Troutdale’s identity and significant local control,” he said. “And I think we all on the council want that.

“To me I agree this is a win for the city, a win for the county, and a win for the employees,” Daoust said, adding that public safety is the council’s No. 1 priority, and “we need to stabilize it.”

Existing employees will keep their jobs.

“We’ll still have 15 police staff just like we do now,” he said.

Daoust said he spoke with the mayor of Wilsonville, a city that has contracted police services with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office for 20 years.

“Nothing but a positive experience” were his words, Daoust said. “Officers look and behave like city police even though they are county sheriffs.”

Daoust said the estimated $1 million in savings a year could be put in budget savings to offset the police building bond debt that citizens pay on their property taxes. Or, he said, it could be put aside for a new city hall, or to suit a variety of other city needs including a “rainy day fund” to terminate the sheriff’s agreement, if needed.

Without consolidation, Daoust could not safely say that Troutdale would be able to maintain a standard level of police services in the future.

Daoust said if the city wanted to fund an additional two sergeants and one police officer plus records staffing and all the vehicles that police say is needed, the city would have to cough up $700,000 to $1 million a year. It’s nearly the same amount that the sheriff is proposing to save Troutdale, he said.

“If we don’t move forward with this … I feel guilty not doing my job when we undermine municipal services.”

Troutdale resident Diane Castillo said, “I trust Chief Scott Anderson, but not so much Multnomah County.”

She said Troutdale officers, with whom both her daughter and son have had interactions, “evaluate the risk, the situation and treat us like family. And I don’t want to lose that.”

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