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The city's only police officer works part time, but councilors may be reducing those hours more.

Councilors in Gaston are considering reducing the hours of the city's only police officer, as part of a cost-saving venture.

The tiny town of Gaston straddles the border between Washington and Yamhill counties and has a population of about 700. The city contracts with the Washington County Sheriff's Office for a dedicated deputy to patrol the city 30 hours per week.

The current contract expires in July.

The city currently plays about $11,900 per month to the county for police services, but city officials say those costs are ticking up. Starting July 1, the city would need to pay more than $12,100 per month in order to maintain the same level of services.

The city's budget committee proposed cuts to police services earlier this month. Police services account for 42% of Gaston's general fund, and some city lawmakers feel the money could be used for other services.

City officials are looking into possibly cutting the deputy's time in Gaston back to 20 hours per week or less.

Not all city leaders are in agreement about the cuts. Council President Bill Martin has gathered signatures from local residents he says are opposed to changing the city's contract with the county.

Currently, when the deputy isn't on duty, calls to police are answered by other Washington County sheriff's deputies in the area, according to Sgt. Danny DiPietro, spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff's Office. DiPietro said response times are longer when a deputy isn't on duty, because responders must travel to Gaston from other parts of the county.

"Any time there's an active crime and the deputy isn't available, we'll respond," DiPietro said. "But that's out on our western end. If the nearest deputy is in Timber, they have to get to Gaston. That's drive time. It could be 15 to 20 minutes, compared to if there was a deputy on duty in town."

DiPietro said the department is working with the city on a new contract.

Washington County provides police services to several county cities, including Gaston, Banks, Cornelius and North Plains. The contract for Gaston covers the entire city, although part of Gaston is in Yamhill County.

Wilsonville, which is split between Washington and Clackamas counties, contracts with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office in a similar arrangement.


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