Sheriff’s office assumes Elgin police duties

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer June 29, 2012 12:22 pm

Temporary contract that has deputies providing police coverage to Elgin on interim basis becomes three-year pact

The Union County Board of Commissioners Wednesday approved a law enforcement contract between the county sheriff’s department and the City of Elgin, making official an agreement months in the making.

After hearing a brief report from Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen, the board voted unanimously in favor of the contract. Rasmussen told the commissioners he expects the arrangement to work well.

“We had several conversations and I’m satisfied with what we have here,” he said.

Elgin’s police department disintegrated in the wake of last August’s shooting of city resident Richard Shafer by Officer Erik Kilpatrick in a domestic disturbance call. Though a grand jury ruled the shooting justified, public outrage over the incident and a host of other law enforcement-related issues continued. Kilpatrick and Chief Kevin Lynch resigned in October, leaving the city without any officers.

The city council and a hiring committee mounted a months-long search for a new chief, but was unable come up with a suitable candidate. In the interim, Union County sheriff’s reserves provided coverage under a temporary contract. 

Then in May, the Elgin council voted to enter into a three-year contract with the county department rather than continue the effort to re-build the local department. 

The contract worked out in subsequent negotiations takes formal effect in July. Sheriff’s Office law enforcement services will cost the city $298,693 in the first year of the contract, $269,023 in the second year, and $290,345 the third year.  Rasmussen said the deputies will use the offices formerly occupied by the city police department, and the city’s police vehicles will be retrofitted for use by the deputies.

He said that two deputies will patrol the city initially, with plans to add a third as funds become available.

“The city is paying unemployment costs for the two officers who left, and that’s why we’re not fielding three deputies in the beginning,” Rasmussen said.

During a training period from this July to March, 2013, the county will provide 40-60 hours coverage. After training is complete, the minimum number of service hours will rise to  70. When the contract is fully implemented, three deputies will provide 105 hours of service.

“I think with three, you should be able to provide good service out there,” County Commissioner Steve McClure said.

According to the contract, the Sheriff’s Office will send a representative to monthly city council meetings to provide a report of law enforcement law enforcement activities and services. Members of the city’s safety committee will receive the report by email at east a day prior to the council meeting.

In another item of business during Wednesday’s county board meeting, the board voted some financial support for Northeast Oregon Public Transit summer activities, which include providing free bus transportation for community events.

Among the activities is bus service to the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at the La Grande Gun Club July 19-23. Northeast Oregon Public Transit Manager Frank Thomas said his organization will try and serve as many people as possible who want to see the memorial, which makes an appearance in La Grande thanks to the efforts of High Valley VFW Post 4060.  Thomas said that vehicle parking will be limited at the gun club.

“We have a park and ride alternative to get people out there without jamming the venue, but we’re also offering rides to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get there,” Thomas said. He said the service will be distributing flyers to the Union County Senior Center and local elder living facilities.

Thomas said the schedule is still being worked out, but busses will run to the memorial site several times each day. Busses will likely remain on site for 30 minutes or until a group is ready to return, whichever comes first.

“Passengers will be welcome to catch a later bus if they wish to spend more time,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the service will be staffed with a veteran who recently completed a tour in Iraq.

Thomas  also filled the board in on the transportation service’s plans for bus service during the Union County Fair, Aug. 1-4  He said that during that project, there will be an effort to support merchants who are also vendors at the fair. Measures will include on-board advertising and promotions, outdoor advertising, local and social media promotions, and intentional stops and layovers in the downtown business district.

Thomas said busses will run the fair route 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 1-3, and 12 noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 4.

In a third summer activity, Thomas said his agency will again be running busses for players housed in La Grande while practicing for the East-West Shrine game in Baker City Aug. 4. 

After hearing Thomas’ presentation, the board approved funding of not more than $4,878 for the transportation projects.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board formally adopted the county budget and solid waste district budget for 2012-13, and considered and took action on a variety of administrative matters.