Gold Bar residents oppose change in police service

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

GOLD BAR — Residents are circulating a petition around town telling the mayor and city council to keep their "hands off our heroes."

At least 344 people in the Gold Bar area have signed the petition calling for local law enforcement to remain under the direction of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

The move comes in response to discussions about having Sultan police patrol Gold Bar.

Additionally, residents want a guarantee that the officers who serve Gold Bar will be kept in their positions.

"These officers have gone about their duties effectively and compassionately," resident Bev Bigelow said. "They make us feel safe, and they are such a great team."

Gold Bar turned to the sheriff’s department for police services seven years ago after problems with its own department. Former chief Steve Hunt was convicted in 1989 of dealing cocaine, and two chiefs that followed him quit or were fired. in 1994 the city council eliminated the police department.

The city now contracts with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement and pays about $260,000 a year, which buys a sergeant, who gets the title of Gold Bar chief, and two full-time deputies. Jeff Brand is the current chief.

When word got around town that a change was being considered, residents began protesting.

But Mayor Ken Foster said Tuesday that although there has been some talk of change, the city’s police services will remain under contract with the sheriff’s office.

Foster said he was approached about using Sultan police by Sultan Mayor C.H. Rowe, and he took it to the council last week. "But the council didn’t want to go any further with it," he said.

Rowe said he discussed the idea with Sultan police chief Fred Walser. Rowe said he thought the idea made sense, because Sultan police back up sheriff’s officers assigned to Gold Bar and because Sultan was faced with budget problems that included proposed reductions in the police force. Contracting with Gold Bar could be a source of revenue for the Sultan Police Department.

But Walser said he is not pursuing a service contract with any other city.

"I’ve talked with the mayor (Rowe) about that," he said. "But I’ve not been asked to submit a proposal. If they (Gold Bar) wanted us for 24-hour coverage, I’d do it. But it’s not meant as a way to keep this department afloat."

Rowe said he’s not sure that Sultan police could provide services any less expensively than the sheriff’s department, but "the county is having cutbacks, too," he said. "It’s something that we thought we should investigate."

Foster said the contract with the sheriff’s department has an option to allow the local jurisdiction to rotate officers. He said in the past three years, the city had not done so, and he thought it might be time to do so.

Residents said they will fight that and plan to present their petition to the mayor and council at Tuesday’s council meeting.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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