By Ann McCreary
Twisp will boost its police force to three full-time officers as part of its proposed 2016 budget.
The town has been unable to afford to hire a third officer since a federal grant that provided funding expired a few years ago, and the town has supplemented its two-man police department with part-time and reserve officers.
Events of recent years, however, made hiring another officer a priority, said Mayor Soo Ing-Moody.
“The past two years of wildfire disaster, and other local circumstances, has placed additional unforeseen burden on our officers,” Ing-Moody said. “Since the 2014 Carlton Complex disaster … it has been an ongoing priority of mine to consider how our community can be better prepared and strengthened to overcome future emergencies of any nature.”
The mayor said Police Chief Paul Budrow and officer Ty Sheehan have worked with other agencies over the past year to initiate new safety programs and community training, and have participated in roundtable discussions on recovery and resiliency.
“In addition to regular police work, these new tasks take a lot of time and energy, which will certainly be enhanced by having another officer,” Ing-Moody said.
The town is able to fund a new officer through a small increase in anticipated revenues, decreased overtime costs for the town’s two officers, decreased expenditures for part-time officers, and allocating general fund reserves at the end of the year based on actual year-end balances.
Costs of wages and benefits for a new officer are estimated at about $70,000.
Ing-Moody said the town’s financial circumstances have improved as a result of measures taken to prevent unpredictable fluctuations in general fund expenditures, a reserve fund built in recent years, and “general signs of a stronger economy,” including new development in Twisp.
Town officials are also proposing an increase in rates for water and sewer services to balance those funds, which are required to be balanced by state law. The amount of the needed increase is still being calculated.
The final 2016 budget is scheduled for adoption at the Twisp Council’s Dec. 8 meeting.