Twisp might continue coverage at higher cost
By Don Nelson
Winthrop’s contract with the Twisp Police Department for law enforcement protection expires this week, and it’s uncertain whether the agreement will continue.
At last week’s meeting, the Winthrop Town Council discussed the option of extending the two-month contract, but reached no consensus. Twisp had indicated earlier that it might be willing to extend the contract, but on a less-extensive basis and possibly at a higher cost.
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 that process is expected to take through July. One candidate has been recommended by the town’s Civil Service Commission, and is now going through background checks.
At the Winthrop council’s June 21 meeting, mayor pro tem Bob DeHart reported that Twisp officials had suggested a monthly coverage fee of $25,000, compared to the $17,000 a month that Winthrop paid for police protection in May and June, and that the contract might be extendable on a week-by-week basis.
Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody had indicated earlier that because of demands on Twisp’s police department as summer activity increases, Twisp may not be able to provide as much coverage as it has the past two months.
Ing-Moody said Monday (June 26) that “$25,000 was proposed as an alternative to having less coverage.”
“The contract price could stay the same without an assurance there would be the same levels of presence as in the past [two months],” she said.
Increased costs for the same level of police presence are linked to higher call volumes in summer, the recent addition of a third full-time officer to Twisp’s police force, and added costs of overtime required to provide coverage for officers who are on vacation, Ing-Moody said.
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.
At last week’s Winthrop council meeting, there was some informal discussion about asking the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office for more coverage if a contract extension agreement isn’t reached. An audience member pointed out that the sheriff’s office is also down several officers, that the closure of Highway 20 over Loup Loup Pass would hamper response time, and that the valley’s only resident deputy, Laura Wright, recently resigned.
Rick Northcott, who was appointed mayor at last week’s meeting to replace Anne Acheson, who recently resigned, said that eventually he would like to see a consolidated police force to serve both Twisp and Winthrop.