Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ketchum cop vote slated for Monday

City: contract with county will save over $1 million

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling appears poised to take over the Ketchum police duties. Both the Ketchum City Council and the Blaine County Commission are warm to the idea.

The Ketchum City Council is slated to consider and potentially vote next week on a contract for services with Blaine County that would have the Sheriff's Office taking over law enforcement duties within the city.

Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks said a final proposal is on the agenda for the council's regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, June 15. Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the deal at the meeting.

The proposed contract would initially run for 15 months, from July 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010, the end date of the upcoming fiscal year. After that, the agreement could be renewed for one-year periods upon the approval of the elected officials from the city and county.

For the first 15 months, the city would pay the county $1.56 million. Marks said that would equate to savings of $22,000 for the remainder of the 2008-09 fiscal year and about $250,000 the next year. Over a four-year span, Marks estimated, the contract would save the city $1.1 million.

Marks calculated the savings by looking at what it would cost the city to restaff its police department, down from 12 officers to eight and without a full-time chief or assistant chief. Ketchum Police Sgt. Dave Kassner is currently running the department, after Chief Mike McNeil negotiated an early retirement package with the city.

For the money, the city would retain all its current personnel and gain an additional full-time officer. Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling would appoint a new Ketchum Police Chief, who would serve as a liaison between city and county officials.

The city would retain ownership over its vehicles and a police station would remain in the current City Hall location.

"Since this is a contract for service as opposed to a consolidation, we will be able to review this proposed contract every year," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall wrote in a press release Monday. "The huge savings are a compelling reason to make this move, and the proposed agreement would increase the level of service to the community."

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