New agreement could provide less coverage
By Ann McCreary
Twisp officials have indicated they would consider extending a contract for police protection to Winthrop, while Winthrop works toward hiring a new marshal.
Twisp earlier agreed to provide two months of police protection under a contract that is set to end June 30. Winthrop, which has been without any police officers since Feb. 22 when former Marshal Hal Henning was fired, has been conducting a search for a new marshal. But the process will likely take longer than the end of June.
Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody told Twisp Town Council members that she had talked with Bob DeHart, a Winthrop Council member, about the potential to extend the police contract.
“He felt that even if it was less coverage, it would be acceptable,” Ing-Moody said at last week’s Twisp Council meeting.
DeHart served as mayor pro-tem at the Winthrop Town Council’s last meeting, following the resignation of Winthrop Mayor Anne Acheson earlier this month.
At its Wednesday (June 21) meeting, the Winthrop Town Council was expected to appoint a mayor to replace Acheson. The new mayor could come from the current council — including DeHart, who earlier announced that he would run for mayor in November — or from the general public if there are applicants.
Winthrop Town Clerk Michelle Gaines said this week that the new Winthrop mayor will be the one who makes the hiring decision for the marshal’s position.
Gaines said that the town’s Civil Service Commission conducted oral board examinations with four applicants for the vacant marshal’s position last week, but only recommended one candidate from that group to move on in the process. That candidate is now undergoing a background check, Gaines said, prior to personal interviews.
“We feel we would like to assist Winthrop as best we can, but … it may not be the same level of coverage as the last two months,” Ing-Moody said.
Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow said his department has “been inundated” with calls in recent weeks. The total number of incidents to date is several weeks ahead of the same time last year, he said.
Budrow said calls from Winthrop account for some of the heavier workload, but Twisp has also been busier than usual compared to the same time year. The calls involve a wide range of incidents, he said. “No major calls … just busy. I haven’t had the time to sit down and do paperwork,” Budrow said.
Records from the Twisp Police Department show officers responded to 388 incidents, or calls, by mid-June this year, compared to 273 by mid-June last year.
The three-man Twisp police department has been providing “basic response,” to Winthrop, which means calls about things like traffic incidents, noise or theft, while on duty. The officers are also providing “emergency response,” which means responding to incidents like assault or domestic violence, also only while on duty.
Twisp police have been splitting their 10-hour patrol shifts between Winthrop and Twisp. The contract also provides for transfer of people in custody to the county jail and court appearances as necessary.
Budrow said the terms of a new contract with Winthrop would change as a result of the increased workload as the summer tourist season ramps up. “I can’t guarantee the five hours a day … and we’d have to pay overtime,” he said.
Twisp officials had initially chosen to limit the interim contract for police services to spring because the Methow Valley — and particularly Winthrop — becomes so busy with the influx of tourists in summer that workload would become too much for Twisp’s small police department.
Ing-Moody said DeHart told her that Winthrop might be interested in contracting on a week-by-week basis until the town hires a marshal.
With the resignation of Acheson earlier this month, Winthrop is without a mayor or marshal. Acheson said she resigned largely because of ongoing controversy in the community and dissension on the Town Council over her decision to fire Henning. Acheson said the firing was a personnel matter and subject to possible litigation, and therefore could not publicly reveal her reasons for terminating the marshal.
Winthrop’s budget provides for two full-time officers, but the town has had ongoing problems retaining police officers and has been without any town officers numerous times in recent years.
Henning was popular with many Winthrop residents and business owners, and there was some sentiment expressed for his return as marshal. However, Gaines said, Henning would have to go through the civil service process again to be eligible for re-hiring, and he did not apply for the marshal’s position.
Theoretically, Gaines said, Henning could apply for the deputy marshal’s position after a marshal is hired.
Don Nelson contributed to this article.