Marshal recommends new office site to replace flooded space

Photo by Don Nelson The Riverside Printing building is being proposed as temporary headquarters for the Winthrop Marshal’s Office.

Photo by Don Nelson
The Riverside Printing building is being proposed as temporary headquarters for the Winthrop Marshal’s Office.

By Don Nelson

The Winthrop Town Council has agreed to pay raises for the town’s marshal and deputies to help recruit better candidates for its police positions.

At last week’s meeting, the council adopted a revised pay schedule proposed by Marshal Hal Henning. The salary figures in the proposal approved last week were less than those in an earlier plan Henning submitted, but will make the town competitive with Okanogan County when hiring, the marshal said.

Council members had earlier expressed concern that while they agree salaries need to be increased, Henning’s first proposal was too costly. They said they needed more time to consider the numbers and their short- and long-term budgetary implications.

Henning worked with council member Anne Acheson and Town Clerk Michelle Gaines to come up with the revised proposal.

Henning — who was recently hired as marshal — told the council a few weeks ago that if Winthrop wants to attract and keep competent police officers, it will need to pay them considerably more than the town does now. He said the current pay scale is not competitive with other jurisdictions in the region and will make it especially difficult to recruit experienced officers who would stay in the community

Henning is looking for an officer to fill out the town’s two-person force. The town also has a full-time police clerk to handle administrative needs.

Henning’s original plan included an incentives program that would pay more to officers who have or attain a secondary education degree and who stay with the town for several years. Those incentives were eliminated in Henning’s revised proposal, but may be revived later.

Henning’s proposal will start officers at $4,300 a month (compared to $4,800 a month in his earlier plan), advancing to $5,250 a month after three years of service (reduced from $5,500 in the original proposal) after three years.

Henning’s current pay is $4,600 per month. Under the proposal, his salary will increase to $5,000 a month in January 2017, and he will advance to the top step on the salary scale in July 2017.

In 2017, Henning said, Okanogan County’s starting salary for deputies will be $4,383 a month and the top salary will be $5,408.

Henning said the marshal’s office expects to carry over at least $25,000 from this year’s budget to the 2017 budget because the town did not have any officers on its payroll in 2016 until he was hired. Those funds will help the town adjust to the new pay scale, he said.

New marshal’s office?

The council also heard Henning’s recommendation to temporarily house the marshal’s office either in the Coldwell Banker real estate building on Highway 20, or preferably in the soon-to-be-vacated Riverside Printing building on Riverside Avenue.

The existing marshal’s office in the basement of Town Hall was recently flooded for the second time in two years, and it’s likely the town won’t reoccupy it as office space. Currently, the marshal’s office staff is sharing space with other town personnel on the first floor of Town Hall.

Mayor Sue Langdalen said recently that the existing marshal’s office space will probably not be re-usable for anything other than storage.

At last week’s council meeting, Henning said he had researched several possible locations in town and that the Riverside Printing building is the best option (the printing business is being relocated to another location in town). It’s in the downtown core, has off-street parking, enough storage space for office records, is Americans With Disabilities Act compliant and will accommodate two police officers and a clerk. Henning said that Jerome Thiel, who owns the Riverside Printing building, has indicated he would be willing to lease the building to the town for up to two years at a monthly rent of $500, not including utilities.

Henning urged the council to act as soon as possible. “Basically, I’m working out of my truck,” he said.

The Coldwell Banker space is smaller and located on the second floor, Henning said, so is a less-desirable option.

Other possibilities he checked out such as the town shop and the U.S. Forest Service building are either unsuitable or don’t have space available, Henning said.

Council members were supportive but again expressed concerns about budgetary consequences. “Just find a way to pay for it [leasing the building],” council member Rick Northcott said.

Henning and council members have also informally discussed working with Okanogan County Fire District 6 to possibly locate the marshal’s office in a new station the district plans to build in Winthrop.