Friday, August 12, 2011

County: Bellevue owes us

Outstanding costs run over $132,000

Express Staff Writer

Despite the city of Bellevue's contention that it has overpaid Blaine County for law enforcement services, county staff say the city actually owes it more than $132,000.

"Unlike the city of Bellevue, which believes we may owe them a refund, from our books, it seems they might owe us additional funds," County Administrator Derek Voss said.

A joint powers agreement between Blaine County and the city of Bellevue sets a fixed amount that the city pays for services rendered by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office. According to county figures, the city neglected to pay $8,588 for services in 2008 and still owes the county $123,511 for the remainder of this fiscal year.

"The contract is clear that there is an obligation," Voss said. "It's more than my expectation [that Bellevue would pay]. It's a legal obligation."

The Bellevue City Council decided last month to terminate its contract for law enforcement services with Blaine County in favor of a contract with the Hailey Police Department. The switch would save the city about $70,000.

Bellevue City Councilman Dave Hattula contended last week that the county could owe the city more than $40,000 in overpayments since 2007. According to figures from the City Council, the overpayments stem from a staff reduction that was not included in the contract.

Voss maintained that Bellevue agreed to a fixed amount for services, an amount that cannot be changed without amending the agreement itself.

"Their letter speaks to things outside the agreement, so I cannot quite follow their logic [regarding overpayment]," he said. "From our view, we have an agreement. These are the amounts that have been paid in, and these are the amounts remaining."

County Commissioners said they planned to enforce the contract and ask the city to pay up, if only to fulfill their obligation to be responsible with tax revenues.

"The contract should speak for itself, but apparently not," said Commissioner Larry Schoen. "The last thing in good money management we should be doing is subsidizing their law enforcement at the expense of county taxpayers."

"We don't intend to make money, but we don't intend to lose money with these things," added Commissioner Tom Bowman.

Voss sent a letter to Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch on Thursday, stating that the city still owes about $132,100 through the end of 2011 and urging that Bellevue City Clerk Dee Barton resolve the issue with County Clerk JoLynn Drage.

The letter also states that the county has not received any written notice that the city plans to terminate the agreement rather than renewing it as usual in October.

"Rather than relying on hearsay, can you please forward written notice to me confirming that the City does not intend to renew [the agreement]?" Voss wrote.

As of press time Thursday, Drage said the city had not yet contacted her to resolve the outstanding balance.

Katherine Wutz:

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